Violence prevention

The Human rights approach is based on the obligations of states to respect, protect and fulfill human rights and therefore to prevent, eradicate and punish violence. It recognizes violence as a violation of many human rights: the rights to life, liberty, autonomy and security of the person; the rights to equality and non-discrimination; the rights to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment; the right to privacy; and the right to the highest attainable standard of health. These human rights are enshrined in international and regional treaties and national constitutions and laws, which stipulate the obligations of states, and include mechanisms to hold states accountable. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, for example, requires that countries party to the Convention take all appropriate steps to end violence against women. The Convention on the Rights of the Childin its Article 19 states that States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.

Violence, as defined in the dictionary of human geography, “appears whenever power is in jeopardy” and “in and of itself stands emptied of strength and purpose: it is part of a larger matrix of soci-political power struggles”.[50] Violence can be broadly divided into three broad categories – direct violence, structural violence and cultural violence.[50] Thus defined and delineated, it is of note, as Hyndman says, that “geography came late to theorizing violence” [50] in comparison to other social sciences. Social and human geography, rooted in the humanist, Marxist, and feminist subfields that emerged following the early positivist approaches and subsequent behavioral turn, have long been concerned with social and spatial justice [51] Along with critical geographers and political geographers, it is these groupings of geographers that most often interact with violence. Keeping this idea of social/spatial justice via geography in mind, it is worthwhile to look at geographical approaches to violence in the context of politics. Derek Gregory and Alan Pred assembled the influential edited collection "Violent Geographies: Fear, Terror, and Political Violence", which demonstrates how place, space and landscape are foremost factors in the real and imagined practices of organized violence both historically and in the present.[52] Political violence, evidently, often gives a part for the state to play. When “modern states not only claim a monopoly of the legitimate means of violence; they also routinely use the threat of violence to enforce the rule of law” [50] the law not only becomes a form of violence but is violence.[50] Philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s state of exception and homo sacer are useful to consider within a geography of violence. The state, in the grip of a perceived, potential crisis (whether legitimate or not) takes preventative legal measures, such as a suspension of rights (it is in this climate, as Agamben demonstrates, that the formation of the Social Democratic and Nazi government’s lager or concentration camp can occur). When this ‘in limbo’ reality, however, is designed to be in place “until further notice…the state of exception thus ceases to be referred to as an external and provisional state of factual danger and comes to be confused with juridical rule itself”.[53] For Agamben, the physical space of the camp “is a piece of land placed outside the normal juridical order, but it is nevertheless not simply an external space”.[53] At the scale of the body, in the state of exception, a person is so removed from their rights by “juridical procedures and deployments of power” [53] that “no act committed against them could appear any longer as a crime [53] – man is only homo sacer. Guantanamo Bay could also be said to represent the physicality of the state of exception in space, and can just as easily draw man as homo sacer. Simon Springer emphasizes the interconnectedness of violence by questioning those reductionist approaches that exclusively align violence to particular places, suggesting instead that violence is born of an overdetermined number of variables that stretch out across the wider matrix of space.[54] Elsewhere, Springer expands on these ideas, arguing that "to treat the material expression of violence only through its directly observable manifestation is a reductionist appraisal. This view ignores the complexity of the infinite entanglements of social relations, and further neglects the future possibilities, or what Nordstrom [55] calls ‘the tomorrow of violence’. When we bear witness to violence, what we are seeing is not a ‘thing’, but a moment with a past, present and future that is determined by its elaborate relations with other moments of social process. The material ‘act’ of violence itself is merely a nodal point, a snapshot of oppressive social relations, and one that has an enduring tendency to be marked with absolutist accounts of space and time, when in fact, violence is temporally dispersed through a whole series of ‘troubling geographies’".[56] When considering that violence, as a material act, is only one nodal point in a series of troubling geographies, it is helpful to keep Deleuze’s rhizome in mind. The form of a rhizome, “a subterranean stem…absolutely different from roots and radicles” [57] is an assemblage, based on multiplicity – “a rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power and circumstances relative to…social struggles”.[57] As a horizontally growing stem, there is no discernible beginning or end to the rhizome; no one part of the rhizome is separate or independent. This metaphor then draws the eye to the exact social relations that violence cannot and should not be separated from, as Springer and Nordstrom ask. In detaching violence from its inevitable identification as a localized event, “violence can more appropriately be understood as an unfolding process, derived from the broader geographical phenomena and temporal patterns of the social world”.[58] The genocide in Cambodia in the 1970s, under the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot, ended with the murder of over two million Cambodians – 25% of the Cambodian population.[59] About fourteen thousand of these people were murdered at Choeung Ek, an extermination camp that came to be called the Killing Fields.[59] Murdered arbitrarily – a person could be killed for wearing glasses which associated them with intellectuals, and so, part of the enemy – the killing fields and the genocide as a whole are one of the many contemporary examples of state sponsored violence.[59] People were murdered with impunity because it was no crime – Cambodians were made homo sacer in a condition of bare life. The killing fields, a manifestation of Agamben’s camp, featured the state of exception. As part of Pol Pot’s “ideological intent…to create a purely agrarian society or cooperative” [59] he “dismantled the country’s existing economic infrastructure and depopulated every urban area”.[59] Forced movement, such as this forced movement applied by Pol Pot, is a clear display of structural violence. When “symbols of Cambodian society were equally disrupted, social institutions of every kind…were purged or torn down”,[59] cultural violence – defined as when “any aspect of culture such as language, religion, ideology, art, or cosmology is used to legitimize direct or structural violence” [50] – is added to the structural violence of forced movement and the direct violence, such as murder, at the killing fields. Vietnam eventually intervened and the genocide officially ended. However, ten million landmines left by opposing guerillas in the 1970s [59] continue to create a violent landscape in Cambodia. Human geography, though coming late to the theorizing table, has tackled violence through many lenses – anarchist geography, feminist geography, Marxist geography, political geography, and critical geography – and this broad stroke list is by no means exhaustive. But, “as violence spreads and assumes unheard-of forms, it becomes difficult to name in contemporary language”.[60] In facing such a truth, it is prudent to reconsider violence as ‘horrorism’, as Cavarero proposes – “Horrorism – as though ideally all the…victims, instead of their killers, ought to determine the name”.[60] With geography often adding the forgotten spatial aspect to theories of social science, rather than creating them solely within the discipline, it seems that the self-reflexive contemporary geography of today may have an extremely important place in this current (re)imaging of violence, exemplified by Cavarero.