Observatory of Symbolic Violence

Principal Investigator(s): Dr Brigitte Piquard

Contact: bpiquard@brookes.ac.uk

Project start: September 2014

About us

The concept of an observatory on symbolic violence derives from the ascertainment that occupation, conflict and protracted crises engender a less visible and obvious violence against minority groups, culture and identity.

Symbolic violence was first defined by Pierre Bourdieu concerning a form of violence which is leading to marginalisation, discrimination and stigmatisation in an almost accepted manner. Symbolic violence does not only reside in outstanding events but mainly in everyday life events. The suffering resulting from symbolic violence is instilled at a small dose, but constantly, and is therefore characterised by the normalisation of the discriminating situation.

Symbolic violence can be seen in architecture, the control of space as well as narratives on space. This project has been linked to the responses to this form of violence through symbolic reparation and resilience enhancement. The main cases studied are the West Bank and Colombia.

Memory and advocacy, Victims organisation AFAVIT, Trujillo (Colombia) 2016

Research impact

Caged balcony, Shuhada street, Hebron, (OPT)  2012

The Observatory of Symbolic Violence was created in 2014 to support organisations working mainly with displaced and marginalised populations in the West Bank and in the coffee production regions of the Valle del Cauca and Afro-descendants of the Pacific and Caribbean coastal areas of Colombia. Through a participatory process of action research and learning, the project aims to interact with the impacts of stigma and the peoples’ modes of resilience.

Our research produced the following publications:

  • Piquard, B. (2007) "The Politics of the West Bank Wall: Symbolic Violence and Spaciocide" in Swenarton M., Troiani I., Webster H. (eds.), The Politics of Making, Routledge, London and New York, pp. 25-35.
  • Piquard, B. (2007) "Paintings, Murals and Graffiti on the West Bank Wall: Coping Mechanisns and acts of Resilience" in Van Teeffelen T; (ed.), Challenging the Wall, Towards a Pedagogy of Hope, Culture and Palestine Series, Bethlehem, OPT, pp. 111-120.
  • Piquard, B. & Grindsted, A. (2009) "Urban Spaces and Crises", Universitad de Deusto Press, Spain.
  • Piquard, B. & Swenarton, M. (eds) (2001) "Architecture and Conflict", Journal of Architecture, Taylor & Francis; London.
  • Piquard, B. (2016)  “From Symbolic Violence to Symbolic Reparation. Strengthening Resilience and Reparation in Conflict-Affected Areas through Place-(re)making. Examples from the West Bank and Colombia”, DEARQ, N18,Bogota, Colombia, pp.68-79


Brigitte Piquard

Dr Brigitte Piquard

Reader in Humanitarianism and Conflict

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The project is conducted with CERAR, Centre for Study and Action Research on Resilience, created in Paris in 2013 and aiming to strengthen the resilience of associations and of marginalised and stigmatised communities, mainly in areas of conflict or instability. It supports the development of skills and capacities by taking into account values, existing strengths and specific needs in each particular context. See the CERAR website for more information.

CERAR, Centre for Study and Action Research on Resilience