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The landscape of violence

Political violence is often dealt with as an exceptional, isolated, and decontextualized phenomenon. Whilst social research has elaborated sophisticated analytical tools, this phenomenon remains largely misinterpreted, especially in public discourse, as the ahistorical and extraordinary rupture of the normal dimension of social relationships.

This interdisciplinary and challenge-led pilot project complicates this picture by studying political violence from the point of view of the landscapes in which it unfolds. Using film and photography to interrogate the topography of violence, the project aims to show how violence can be also invisible, ordinary and part of various processes.

Operating at the intersection of film, political theory, memory studies, architecture and transitional justice, this project focuses on two case studies: Italian terrorism (1968-1978) and Lebanon’s CivilWar (1975-1990). The choice falls on these two because in civil conflicts, the abstract nature of politics is intensely - although not always evidently - connected to the intimacies of everyday life, and the observer cannot so easily detach ordinary landscapes from landscapes of violence.

In order to challenge mainstream understanding of violence as exceptional, the project asks:-

  • Does a landscape not showing any trace of violence demonstrate that violence has been overcome and resolved, or is unconscious repression more appropriate to define this outcome?
  • What does the present and manifest invisibility of past violence tell us about our ways of dealing with the past and conceptualising violence?
  • If violence is a process/set of structures and not an exceptional event, what traces does it leave on the landscape?

Last seen

A series of photographs showing locations where people were abducted or killed during the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war and during the Italian terrorism (1969-1980).

A series of photographs showing former checkpoints locations where people were abducted or killed during the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war.
A series of photographs showing former checkpoints locations where people were abducted or killed during the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war.
A photograph showing the location where people were abducted during the Italian terrorism (1969-1980)

 

The project brings together Film, Political Theory, Transitional Justice, Anthropology and Architecture. Starting with the visual framing of landscapes that have been the theatre of high or low intensity conflicts, the project aims to analyse the political and mnemonic significance of topography, but also to interrogate the possibility of re-building an environment that helps understanding and preventing the reappearance of political violence.

Creative practices such as film and photography are therefore used side by side with political theory and memory studies, in order to provide a more nuanced and richer account of the nexus landscape/violence. Both landscape and violence occupy prominent places in visual as well as political research and constitute one of the main areas of intervention for memory work and transitional justice.


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Project last modified 08/09/2022