Adapting the World Health Organization’s definition, we understand violence to be the threatened or actual use of physical force or power against oneself, another person, group, or community that leads to (or is likely to lead to) injury, psychological harm, maldevelopment, deprivation or death. Its sources range from the immediate and interpersonal to the institutional and structural. Within this very broad category, the PVI Collective focuses on structural violence, that is, violence rooted in inequalities of power and authority.
Sexual violence is an important example of physical violence that is rooted in broader power relations. Other prominent examples include racial profiling by police, and crimes committed against those with marginalized sexualities. These and other examples of violence related to gender, race, sexuality, and other power relations are particularly complex and intellectually important because they occur at the intersections of systems of legitimate and illegitimate power, and of formal and informal authority. Physical violence can buttress systems of structural inequality, and is often perpetrated precisely when those less obtrusive mechanisms of social and interpersonal control are threatened or begin to fail. For example, rates of violence against women increase with male unemployment rates, because unemployment undermines men’s control of the household budget, which, in turn, weakens the foundations of patriarchal authority in the family.
Thus, violence rooted in power and inequality presents unique challenges to understanding and to remediation because its causes and consequences extend well beyond particular violent acts. The PVI Collective’s mandate is to bring together scholars and students from disparate fields, deploying a range of methods and approaches, whose work addresses violence at any point from the moment physical violence occurs to the distal antecedent factors—from the physiological to the economic to the cultural—that set the context within which power-based violence occurs.
The Collective organizes its activities under the umbrella of four broad themes:
- Institutions: the University, the Criminal Justice System, the Military
- Intersections among Gender, Race, Ethnicity and Class
- Communicating Violence
- Violence in Global Perspective