Violence as violation of experiential structures

Thiemo Breyer

pp. 737-751


Violence has become a prominent topic in recent phenomenological investigations. In this paper, I wish to contribute to this ongoing discourse by looking at violence in a literal sense as violation of experiential structures, insofar as it is intentionally, purposefully, and strategically imposed on a subject by another agent (individual or collective). Phenomenology provides the descriptive methodology for elucidating such structures. The violation can take the form of a radicalization, in which one of the aspects of polar experiential spectra becomes predominant, i.e. the balance between them is shifted to one extreme. I focus on the relationship between self and other on the one hand, and the relationship between body-as-subject and body-as-object on the other, as prominent topoi in the phenomenological literature. With regard to torture and solitary confinement as forms of extreme violence, I analyze how these structures are disturbed.

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