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Transgressing Boundaries: The Place of Urban Violence in Conflict Analysis

By J.B. Kunkeler


This study explores what impedes the inclusion of urban violence into mainstream conflict analyses. It tests the validity of a number of assumptions constructed in dichotomies, at the heart of which stand the dichotomies war vs. crime and development vs. underdevelopment. These assumptions appear incongruent with the reality of all violent conflicts, old, new and urban violence. The dichotomy war vs. crime is embedded within bio- and geopolitical discourses that permeate as well political as analytical levels and constitute what has been termed a 'global civil war‘ framed in terms of wars-on-crime‘. These global geopolitical discourses are tightly linked to urban geopolitics which forms an important dynamic in the violence now dominating many contemporary metropolises around the globe as these are constitutive of and constituted by a 'fear-of-crime rhetoric‘. Furthermore, mainstream categories, frames and interpretations of contemporary violence derive out of a traditional conception of modernity. Poverty and crime are politicized and attached to what are considered 'barbarian‘ underdeveloped peoples and spaces. As appears, the now constructed 'barbarian‘, is not that far over the border from civilization. Democratic states commit warlike violent interventions ranging from social cleansing, to urbicide. The difference constructed between war and non-war violence is invalid as all wars are characterized by crime, and warlike levels of violence do not necessitate a state of war. The boundary between war and crime is rather normative than analytical and there is an urgent need for new systems of categorization that accurately reflect the reality of armed conflicts. This new definition can be inspired by the progress made in international law

Topics: Letteren, crime - new wars - urban violence - modernity - urbicide - development-security nexus - securitization
Year: 2010
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