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Honour and Violence.

Blok, A. (2001). Honour and Violence. Cambridge, Polity Press.
Blood is culturally associated with virginity and procreation, and therefore also imbues the bonds between in-laws. The comparative study of violence suffers several handicaps. The most important is the dominant conception of violence in modern societies in which the means of violence have since long been monopolized by the state. Precisely because of the stability of this relatively impersonal monopoly and the resulting pacification of society at large, people have developed strong feelings about using and witnessing violence. They are inclined to consider its unauthorized forms in particular as anomalous, irrational, senseless and disruptive – as ther everse of social order, as the antithesis of civilization as something that has to be brought under control.

Rather than defining violence a priori as senseless and irrational, we should consider it as a changing form of interaction and communication, as a historically developed cultural form of meaningful action. It is well known that many cases of homicide result from insults. We also know that sensitivity to insults varies with context and that some people are more sensitive to them than others. When inflicted in public, insults can be experienced as a serious form of verbal violence, in which injusry mixes with insult. This is particualry true in cultures with a strongly developed sense of honour. For men, the use of violence is the best way to obtain satisfactipn for stained honour and to restore their reputation for manliness. The ultimate vindication of honour lies in physical violence.
Rather than looking at violence through essentialisitc or naturalistic lenses, it makes more sense to consider violence as a cultural category, as a historically developed cultural form or construction. How people concieve of violence and the meaning it has for them is continggent with time and place, varies with historical circumstances, and depends on the persepctive of those involved – offenders and victims, spectators and bystanders, witnesses and authorities.

Today we judge violence against persons more severely than violence against property, it used to be the opposite. Hooliganism is rooted in the working-class subculture where fighting and open aggression are appropriate and desirable in certain situations, and sereve – for an age category that has been cross-culturally identified as betwixt and between – as a means of acquiring status and prestige.
Violence can be ritual – sacrifices. Terrorism sometimes takes the character of ritual sacrifice.

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