Locating violence: the spatial production and construction of physical aggression

Wood, J. Carter (2007). Locating violence: the spatial production and construction of physical aggression. In: Watson, Katherine D. ed. Assaulting the Past: Violence and Civilization in Historical Context. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 20–37.

URL: http://www.c-s-p.org/Flyers/Assaulting-the-Past--V...


The historical development of attitudes toward violence has been connected to changing ideas about space. The connection between 'cultures of violence' and particular 'geographies of violence' is of increasing interest within historical violence studies; nevertheless, there is a continuing need to explore ways of conceptualising that interaction. This essay concentrates on two aspects of the space-violence nexus: the interaction between space and the production and construction of violence. The production of violence refers both to the forces that lead to it as well as the forms that it takes. There has been a long-running debate about where violence comes from: in this sense, 'locating' violence has been a challenging project. Even among those who agree that violence has a primarily environmental origin (as opposed to those who locate its origins within the mind or genetics), there have been a variety of perspectives on the spaces most likely to generate violence. For instance, both urban crowding and rural isolation have been pointed to as predominant sources of violence. Moreover, particular spatial arrangements have tended to be associated with certain kinds of violence. Alongside the relationship between space and the 'production' of violence is the influence of particular kinds of spatial thinking on the ways that violence is 'constructed', i.e., the ways that a physically violent act is culturally interpreted. For example, the notion 'violence' is almost inescapably connected to the issue of the legitimacy or illegitimacy of physical force (as what is 'violent' is generally what is seen as illegitimate). Imaginations of space play an important role in defining this legitimacy. As a result, violence is connected to particular spatial issues. For example, particular kinds of violence are seen as legitimate within particular kinds of public or private spaces. Along with the use of particular kinds of space, the legitimacy of violence is tied to particular ways that space is used.

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