Structural Violence


Angela Khaminwa

Program Officer for Outreach and Communication, The Coexistence Initiative

Sarah Peterson

Program Officer for Dialogue and Mainstreaming Coexistence, The Coexistence Initiative

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

S: In the development field, I was talking about this last week, there's this term called structural isolation. In developing a post conflict society you can put in development infrastructure institutions because they're not coexistence-oriented or because they leave certain groups marginalized in the development process. You have structural isolation.

A: What I was going to say is that it is very easy for the term coexistence to be co-opted by people and again looking at the example of apartheid. We were actually in South Africa at the beginning of the year and the gentleman who was driving us said that people didn't understand what apartheid was, they don't understand that people have very different ways of living. So in his mind he has a very different concept of coexistence and a concept that actually works. So there's that kind of weird co-optation, fuzziness, which has to be struggled with using this term. So the other gap, just to reemphasize what Sarah said, is the structural issue. Because coexistence theory, so far, has seen it mostly as focused on the individual, it ignores systemic issues. So how do you create systemic change if in the work you're not addressing it?

S: In the process of building peace there needs to be a process of recognizing the value of equity.

A: Of structural violence, that's what it is. Coexistence, to some extent, does not recognize structural violence and that is what Sarah is talking about when she talks about marginalization and that is how communities become marginalized and that is because they don't have access to infrastructure that helps them move along. We have this wonderful concept that is very pragmatic and helps us to function in many different contexts but it is also disabling us, to some extent, from looking at structural violences.