On Violence, Culture and Literature

A few weeks ago I presented at a conference about human rights, and I discussed conflict about land between LeBarons (a group of polygamous Mormons with an exceptionally violent history) and primarily Indigenous ejidatarios (people who live on collectively owned land granted or restituted by the Mexican government). My conclusion pondered the merits of consuming representations of the obviously violent aspects of this conflict, particularly as it is situated in Mexico.

“This talk about violence, and the overt representation of violence, may do harm than good. It is another way to exoticize Mexico. It overshadows the structural violence that leads to abject violence, which is then represented in visual and print cultures. I wonder if paying attention to the everyday bureaucratic actions and corresponding acts of resistance and the ways that they are represented would be a better approach. It would allow us to return to the reason we study literature, culture and history: the chance to glimpse times, people and places outside of our own experiences and to offer us ways to pay attention and to understand what we prefer to ignore. Returning to why we began such an unproductive career path in the first place allows us to trace the history of the machine that produces so much violence it has now become palatable for us.”

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One response to “On Violence, Culture and Literature

  1. Nice writing, RJ! Reminds me of the research showing that reading literature increases empathy.

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