What is Structural Violence?
" It is one thing to make sense of extreme suffering - a universal activity, surely - and quite another to explain it."
- Paul Farmer, On Suffering and Structural Violence
Structural Violence includes any violence or suffering caused by the structures and institutions of a society. People who suffer from structural violence cannot control the conditions that have caused their suffering. For this reason, structural violence often leads to feelings of complete and utter hopelessness.
Structural violence exists in all corners of the world. In order to understand how it permeates life for individuals in all countries, its helpful to first examine some examples of structural violence in the United States. The most often cited example is the US prison system. Here, I will focus on examples of structural violence from Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in New Orleans.
Cannon at Elmina Castle, Ghana
Ghanaians pride themselves on the fact that economically, politically, and socially, Ghana is an emerging leader among African nations. Nevertheless, some serious structural violence issues exist. Here I will draw on my experiences as a teacher to focus on examples of structural violence in the Ghanaian education system.
Acknowledging the structural violence present in the United States and around the world is only the first step. How do we combat structural violence? After discussing my understanding of structural violence in the United States and in Ghana, I conclude with this section of questions and further thoughts on the relationship between sructural violence, power, and opportunity.