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Symbolic violence: Enactments, articulations and resistances in research and beyond

Sipho Dlamini
Rebecca Helman
Nick Malherbe


In his pioneering work on the subject, French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (2001, p.1-2) defines symbolic violence as “a type of submission… a gentle violence, imperceptible and invisible even to its victims, exerted for the most part through purely symbolic channels of communication and cognition, recognition or even feeling....”. This Special Issue of African Safety Promotion: A Journal of Injury and Violence Prevention seeks to reflect on the multiple ways that symbolic violence is implicated in research; how research reproduces symbolic violence; and how hierarchies within research institutions determine the ‘legitimacy’ of specific knowledges and knowledge producers. We believe that a focus on symbolic violence is necessary to advance nuanced, complex and meaningful understandings of how different kinds of violence operate and are sustained in contemporary society.