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40.1.Conybeare

At the beginning of Sacred Violence, Brent Shaw observes that "violence is rarely seen as a thing in its own right and is radically under-theorized" (4). In this paper, I shall begin to meet the implicit challenge to provide a theorization of violence. Ritual violence, the violence of sacrifice, has been well explored; what we need is an account of quotidian violence, the inglorious aggression and brutality that may erupt in the course of daily life. I shall reach towards this theory of quotidian violence with inspiration from the work of Hannah Arendt - using not her own remarks on violence, which again bespeak something on a grander scale, but her description of politics as what is generated "in the space between people". If politics is generated "in the space between people", is that not equally true of violence? What precipitates the shift in nature of that space, or the way it is used? How - to put it another way - do we shift between words and blows? And is it apt to call violence, as Shaw does, a "thing in its own right", or do we need a more dynamic concept to capture its peculiar force? I shall explore these notions with reference to some of the late antique primary sources from North Africa that Shaw brings to our attention, particularly the conciliar records; but lest we be tempted to assign this turn to quotidian violence to the realm of "otherness", I shall also use as comparandum a well-documented event from the late twentieth century, the murder of Pierre Laporte during the 1970 October Crisis in Quebec.

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