Volume 19, 2019
On Conflict and Violence
Bernhard Waldenfels, Amalia Trepca
Metamorphoses of Violence
Based on the argument that violence has a parasitic quality rather than an essence of its own, this article seeks to bring to light the conversion processes through which violence crystallises out of, as well as into, various phenomena. Violence is first examined in terms of the relation between perpetrator and victim with, however, an emphasis on the fact that violence cannot be reduced to the intention or the act of the perpetrator. On the contrary, violence is shown to have the character of pathos and to open up a dimension of which the act itself is only a part. Further, the author argues that in being directed towards the other, violence harbours a performative contradiction: by turning the addressee into a thing to be destroyed, the addressing act cancels itself. The paper also sets out to identify the breeding grounds of violence, which, due to its capacity for conversion, can be detected in various phenomena that are not necessarily linked to violence. This means that violence can resort to various mechanisms and can emerge in multiple fields of activity: in bureaucracy, economics, medicine, politics, war, and most importantly, in everyday life, hidden under inconspicuous but sometimes pervasive forms. Finally, the metamorphoses of violence are shown to ultimately rest on the temporal character of violence, which implies that violence has a time of preparation (such as in the field of politics) and an aftermath (for example, in posttraumatic disorders).