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Humanities and Social Sciences (B3)

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Professor: Selma Bellal

Reflections on the concepts of legitimate violence and civil disobedience

The humanities and social sciences are instruments of objectification of reality, which are confronted with the difficulty, as many authors have highlighted1, that reality is itself a social construction, produced by a certain majority vision. Marginalized parts of reality thus escape this majority vision, which is neither neutral nor apolitical, but the product of conflicting relationships. It is therefore not surprising that the human and social sciences are largely interested in these conflicting relationships.

Many struggles for new rights have, historically, emerged from a questioning of the gaps between principles and reality (e.g. relations of domination that may have developed under the cover of certain legal principles; etc.). These discrepancies have led to a desire for possible progress. And these struggles took part in a certain extension of the Democracy, making the notions of counter-power and contestation inseparable from this one. In this perspective, protest should not be subject to repression. However, protest becomes problematic when it resorts to violence and/or when it stirs up the ambiguity between legality and legitimacy.

Different treatments of protest then collide and give rise to different representations:

-unacceptable violence (definition of terrorism; use of force on the police; police blunders; destruction of property; ...),

-legitimate violence (monopoly of the use of violence by the State; legitimate defense; vigilantism; ...),

-the desirability for democracy of civil disobedience as a form of direct action.

From there, this course proposes, this year, to lead a critical reflection2 around the concepts of legitimate violence and civil disobedience, by analyzing their social construction. Their representations obviously vary, in space and in time; as shown by the variable geometry treatment of certain protests (migrant aid movements; environmental activist movements; squat and self-managed space movements; cultural decolonization movements; etc.), or the criminalization of certain social movements elsewhere (e.g. rainbow movements in Poland or Turkey; labor movement in Belarus; ...), while they are considered to be invigorating for Democracy here.

We will look at various treatments of these themes in national or international political news, as well as in artistic contributions; some artists

1 Let us think in particular of the works of P. Bourdieu or, those of S. Harding and of the "Standpoint feminism".

2 Recognizing precisely the interest that each level of reality be studied in itself and in relation to the others, this course is part of an interdisciplinary perspective at the crossroads of the social, political and philosophical sciences.