Violences in the South African student movement
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This essay draws attention to the complexities of understanding violence as a phenomenon and experience that almost always involves multiple parties, and contestations about violence itself and its use. It does so as both a theoretical and qualitative exploration of the concept and its lived experiences. The essay begins by puzzling over the intelligibility of violence and its definitional issues. Drawing on disciplinary approaches to violence (e.g., biological, sociological and political) as well as violence as spectacle, symbolic, embodied, systemic or implicit, it shows how violence has been and is mobilized to bring attention to sociopolitical and economic challenges currently and historically. Next it examines student experiences of violence during the recent student movement events in South Africa, and locates this event within the historical context of South Africa's past and current experience of violence. Ultimately, the essay attempts to offer a way of thinking about violence less as an aberration to our peaceful existence but rather argues that violence might shape our very existence. It concludes by offering 'existential violence' as a concept to help think through the relationship between existence and violence in a more nuanced way.