Overcoming actual violence is the driving, although hidden force behind modern modes of thought and investigation, the conceptualisation of civil society since Hobbes, Ferguson and Rousseau, and the unprecedented global effort at preserving human dignity in non-violent politics based on human rights undertaken in the 20th-century. It can even be argued that sociology as a discipline emerged from philosophy precisely as an attempt to contain violence by means of understanding the ways in which people can peacefully co-exist in a society. And yet violence itself is a phenomenon traditionally avoided by sociology. This thesis approaches the issues related to violence through the prism of the ways in which practitioners working in support of survivors endeavour to understand the problem. It is thus a second order critical study of sociological explorations of violence. The thesis begins by mapping the field of sociological exploration of the problem and reviewing the debates related to the theorisation and research of violence. In destabilising the category, the theoretical component of the thesis reveals that the process of understanding violence is a non-linear, always incomplete, and difficult process. The empirical research looks at the approach of practitioners in dealing with the consequent contradictions and ambiguities. Its findings show that in order to link understanding violence and supporting the survivors, one needs to define violence dynamically through the concept of trauma and to build a containing framework in which a holding environment can emerge. The holding environment is presented as a concept, which in practice demonstrates that the understanding employed to address violence is not simply an activity of mind but a social and relational category. This requires re-considering the properties of understanding violence and their linkage with other activities of mind in the social realm and with the practicalities of living. The thesis finishes with a recommendation for further research into the collective aetiology of the trauma derived from violence, for the purposes of designing an approach to sociology based on understanding as a nonviolent response to violence
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