Understanding Conflict Resolution from This Feminists Perspective Part 1, By Eilis Dillon




Welcome reader to the first in a series of blogs discussing the topic “understanding conflict resolution from this feminists perspective”.

In order to begin to understand conflict resolution we must first look at the terms violence and peace. There is a plethora of academic discussions on the nature and definition of these terms but Galtung is the most widely acknowledged and discussed. He discussed violence as more than just acts of physical aggression towards a party (direct) but also structural violence. The word peace is often understood as the absence of violence. In order to understand the nuances of one, we must understand the nuances of the other.

Galtung in the 60s began to shape the way we as peace builders look at these concepts. This first post will consider the concept of violence according to Galtung and will give examples of how these examples of violence relate to violence against women.

“I see violence as avoidable insults to basic human needs, and more generally to life, lowering the real level of needs satisfaction below what is potentially possible. Threats of violence are also violence.”  Galtung 1990 pg.292

Galtung’s definition of violence above states firstly and importantly that it is avoidable. Its consequences are that it inhibits people from having their needs and potentials to be met. He does not just state that violence happens to people but defines it as life, which may allow forviolence to the environment and to ecosystems. Importantly he states that not only actions but threats too are violent.

Below is Galtung’s triangle of violence. He distinguishes between three different types of violence all of which can progress, affect and lead to the other forms. In the triangle shown below cultural and structural violence can lead to direct violence however the triangle can be turned in any way so that cultural and direct violence for example can lead to structural violence and so on.


Galtung is the first of many who attempts to broaden our everyday view of violence to one which includes structural and cultural as well as direct violence.

To further explore these concepts of violence let us look at each one individually.

Direct violence can also be described as personal violence it is perpetrated by people and includes everything from insults to murder, war, threats, rape, torture and genocide.

Structural violence is usually invisible, it originates from violence in the ordinary everyday structures of our social, political and economic structures. As Galtung puts it “the archetypal violent structure, in my view, has exploitation as a centre-piece. This simply means that some, the top dogs, get much more out of the interaction in the structure than others, the underdog” (Galtung 1990 pg.293)

Victim blaming is an example of structural violence against women which is institutionalised in law and legal practice. More pronounced forms include common practices which are sometimes codified in law, such as female genital mutilation, forced child brides, and femicide/infanticide.

‘Cultural violence’ then is defined as any aspect of a culture that can be used to legitimize violence in its direct or structural form. “Cultural violence makes direct and structural violence look, even feel, right – or at least not wrong

Arguably, neither direct nor structural violence can go on for long without at least some support from the culture. This cultural justification of violence may be from such things as religion (the holy war), ideologies (war against terror) or even from the arts and sciences (natural selection).From a feminist perspective this relates to such things as the sexist attitudes that keep women’s opportunities limited.(Confortini, C 2006,)

On the other side of violence is of course, peace. And the three forms of violence outlined above have corresponding forms of peace. However it is clear that none of these forms of violence or their corresponding states of peace are mutually exclusive but constantly interact with each other for example it would be impossible to eliminate gender based violence without transforming institutions and ways of thinking and being within a culture (Confortini, C 2006,)

Peace will be discussed further in my next blog post. Thanks for reading would love to hear your comments!


Confortini, C 2006, Galtung, Violence, and Gender: The Case for a Peace Studies/ Feminism Alliance, Journal of Peace & Change, Vol. 31, No. 3, July 2006

Galtung, J. 1990, Cultural Violence, Journal of Peace Research Vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 291-305

Grewel, B. 2003, Johan Galtung: Positive and Negative Peace, School of social scienceAuckland University (online) available at: http://upeaceap.org/hando_upfiles/FCPC_RM_06_1.pdf

Image from: Indymedia online available at: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/66108

This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s