Structural violence or Inequality

After going through this weeks reading and videos I began to understand what a large problem structural violence has become int he world. “Structural Violence” is often a difficult word to define, and something that is really well not known. For many people, including myself, this is the first time I have ever learned and understood the true meaning of structural violence. Paul Farmer described as structural violence as: “Structural violence is one way of describing social arrangements that put individuals and populations in harm’s way… The arrangements are structural because they are embedded in the political and economic organization of our social world; they are violent because they cause injury to people” (Gabriel, 2016). I looked up several definitions to try and understand this concept better, and as John Gatlung defines structural violence in more similar terms in Violence, Peace and Peace Research, “It refers to a form of violence wherein some social structure or social institution may harm people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs” (Gatlung, 1969). This second definition really stuck with me and made me look at violence in a new perspective. As stated, violence isn’t always causing physical harm to someone, but it can be as simple as preventing basic needs, which will ultimately destroy someone.
Unfortunately, we may have structural violence to blame for the devastating Ebola outbreak. When Ebola cases were found in the U.S. it was a huge epidemic, everyone was vaccinated that could be, and people were treated and quarantined that had the disease. Ebola was mostly prominent in West Africa, but unfortunately due to their socioeconomic status, they did not have the money, tools, or knowledge to provide the correct treatment for the disease that would not only treat it but prevent it as well. This was brought up when Farmer and Goodman discussed the disease, she claimed, “The disease would never make it to America”, while Farmer responded that it could definitely make it to America, but, “would be stopped quickly”. I think this in itself is extremely sad when you think of it. Although the world has the knowledge and technology to cure and treat a certain disease, people may still die from it because they don’t have the technology, especially third world countries. This idea of structural violence can also be viewed as “structural inequality”.
In an article I read, Who is Going to Pay for Higher Education in Africa it goes into a discussion of structural inequality. Even though it talks about Ebola, it is not the main topic. It is a good example of how Africa is a victim of structural inequality and structural violence and things such as higher education aren’t available to them because of their socioeconomic status. So it asks, who is going to pay for it. Which is a valid question, because with the problem of structural violence comes the even bigger issue of how the problem is going to be solved.
Sci Dev. “Who Is Going to Pay for Higher Education in Africa.” N.p., n.d. Web.

6 thoughts on “Structural violence or Inequality

  1. I think you noticed something interesting when defining structural violence. It can be very beneficial to look at the way Dr.Farmer coined his word. Because essentially what structural violence seems to be, at least to me, is the consequence of health care disparity that stems from a fundamental unfair structuring of the medical system. Dr.Farmer could have used a softer term for this problem. He could have referred to this problem as global health care disparity simply. However, he chooses to use the term structural violence. I believe he did this to draw due attention to this problem. he could have used a more technical or softer term to describe this problem, rather he used a word which implies direct violence by the problem of global healthcare disparity. Looking at this we can see how Dr.Farmer see’s this issue. And we should all take his lens on this as well. Looking at this semantics, Dr.Farmer doesn’t see the issue of Ebola or Cholera striking specific populations more harshly than others as some unintended unfortunate consequence that just happens to result out of natural causes. Rather, he believes the way the system is structured causes active violence to these specific populations asserting more direct blame on to the people that cause this system. I believe this can add to the first part of your essay because the term “structural violence” does seem unusual but understanding the context helps put things into perspective.

  2. Hi Jennifer! I really enjoyed reading your blog post and being able to understand the things that you found most interesting within this week’s lecture material. I, too, had never really heard of the term “structural violence” and this week’s information helped me to learn about it for the first time. I liked the fact that you added in another definition of structural violence from John Gatlung. His definition definitely helped me to think of structural violence in another viewpoint, as I am sure it did for others as well. I had never thought of something like “violence” to be carried out in a way of just not providing basic needs for people, therefore harming them. This opened my eyes to see how much of an effect this type of violence can have. If this is considered violence, then there is more harm going on in the world that people truly do not realize. The idea of structural violence needs to be thought of more often. This is because, like you said, this structural violence most likely had a large effect on the spread of Ebola. If people had thought of the problems of structural violence before this, then that outbreak, along with many others, could have potentially been avoided all together.

  3. Jennifer, I love this post! I think you went above and beyond to help both yourself and your classmates figure out and understand the meaning of “structural violence.” I personally preferred the second definition by John Gatlung as well because it’s easier to apply to our own world. Unfortunately, when I read your post and the definitions of this structural violence, I can’t help but think of the racial inequalities of our country and others. In your title, you compare structural violence with inequality but in my opinion, they go hand in hand. I would go as far as to say that white privilege is a form a structural violence because in specific ways it does harm certain groups of people by preventing them from receiving basic needs. Based upon an article I read regarding race and public policy, the term structural racism was coined. In the United States there is a normalization of a spectrum of things, both cultural and institutional that benefits the white population and disadvantages the population of color. So in this way, I find it ironic that a majority of the white population are appalled by the “structural violence” that’s occurring in these other countries, but at the same time, these same white populations enact (while most likely unknowingly) the same type of structural racism in our own country.

  4. I also felt like structural violence was difficult to understand. I think the part I was confused most about was the use of the word violence. When I hear violence I think of someone being physically harmed. Structural violence is more of a mental and emotional harm than a physical one but can still be seen as a form of violence. I like how you stated that preventing a person’s basic needs can destroy someone because I believe that is true. When a person struggles to meet their basic needs such as food, clothing, sanitation, etc. it can make their life very hard. That in turn can create a lot of stress for a person who is unable to take care of and provide for themselves and their families. I also agree with how you said the Ebola virus was an example of structural violence. So many people died of the virus in the outbreak in Africa yet when there were cases of the virus in the United States it was contained immediately so that it didn’t spread and nobody here was really infected. I also think that our doctors here outnumber the amount of doctors in Africa so it would be hard to slow down the outbreak if not caught early enough, which we were able to catch it right away here in the U.S so that it didn’t even turn into an outbreak.

  5. Hi Jennifer, I really enjoyed reading your post, and I really think you did a great job defining “structural violence”. I also find it to be a bit difficult to completely understand the term- which seems like a bit of an issue considering it is a big deal and it is impacting many people around the world. I also mentioned in my post about the statement made by Dr. Farmer- he mentioned the difference between the way the US reacts to widespread diseases entering the country, compared to the way it is handled in other developing countries. I understand that the US has a lot more resources and money to help with problems like this, back a couple years ago when Ebola came to the US, it was a HUGE deal, and you also mentioned that above. I remember hearing about Ebola, and learning about the severity of it- when I heard it was in the US, I was terrified , but I was also confident with our medical teams and I knew they would keep it under control. After I learned about Ebola, I also learned about the amount of people dealing with Ebola in other countries. You stated that it was sad, and that is exactly what it is, it is so sad that these people are just as deserving as we are, yet they are unable to get the treatment they need in order to rid these diseases in their community. Structural violence is real, and I think that there needs to more awareness in order to help issues such as these in the future.

  6. Hello,

    I’m definitely with you when you say that this is the first time you’ve heard about structural violence. When I first heard it I definitely thought this would be about physical violence. In a sense it is, but it’s more overall effecting a group of people instead of intense violence for one person, just like you said in your post; “violence isn’t always causing physical harm to someone but it can be as simple as preventing basic needs, which will ultimately destroy someone. I also agree with you when you say that this may be a huge factor into the Ebola out break. I found it so interesting when Ebola came to the United States, it was nipped in the bud so quickly. But everyday in Africa hundreds of people die. I think our country needs to help provide the basic needs like food, clothing, and basic medicine that we have so much of, because they’re not able to provide that for themselves. If rolls were reversed we would want people to help me. I appreciate you elaborating more on structural violence because I know I didn’t get it at first and im sure there were some people that didn’t quite understand it either.

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