How is violence possible?

How does one human being know how to harm another?

Face-to-face, body-to body, side-by-side, scream-to-scream, blow-to-blow?

How do ordinary people become war criminals?

What are the sources of political evil?

And how do we stop them?

The Violence Prevention (VIPRE) Initiative asks difficult questions.

Unlike most approaches to political violence, the team at VIPRE seeks to understand the concrete ‘doing’ of violence. We explore the conditions of possibility that see very ordinary human beings, just like you, the person reading these words, become a source of pain, suffering, and death. Our goal is to understand how bodies – bodies that we feel to be good – can do bad, can see their muscles tense to flick out the motor movements that do harm, can see their emotional response to witnessing another cry out in pain, begging them to stop, offer no resistance, and can commit these acts in symmetry with other bodies across borders, in a choreography of violence that echoes its movements here at home, and over there abroad, wherever that may be. And we seek to prevent that from occurring. We do so by drawing on cutting edge social theory, unique micro-sociological methods of analysis, deep field-based research immersion, and a fundamentally trans-disciplinary outlook, as well as critical engagements with leading humanitarian and human rights-focused organizations.

Those basic research activities feed into our work developing both novel approaches to preventing political violence and, more broadly, into work that reconsiders the general socio-political status of contemporary social science. Specific to violence, VIPRE suggests that it is possible to prevent violence in a similar way to that by which we prevent, or minimize the damage caused by, public health problems like traffic accidents, smoking, alcoholism, infectious diseases, or firearm-related deaths. Efforts to prevent these problems focus not simply on the ‘original causes’ of harm (driving while intoxicated, for example) but also on mitigating the risk of harm and/or damage inflicted once these original causes are set in motion by placing ‘intervening’ obstacles or ‘firewalls’ in front of these risks/harms (constructing crash barriers on roads or cars that beep when seatbelts are not worn, for example). VIPRE explores the possibility of constructing similar barriers or firewalls vis-à-vis political violence by drawing on material-semiotic, posthumanist, pragmatist, and cognate social theories, conducting deep-empirical research into the embodied and ecological enaction of violence (through perpetrator-engagement and visual analysis), and by developing a novel post-disciplinary  research programme bringing together sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists, architects, technologists, design theorists, and artists to develop an array of material-aesthetic modes of (global) social and political intervention.

On this site you can find out more about our unique approach to violence prevention, discover and register for our forthcoming events, read our current publications, and much more.


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VIPRE’s work has been profiled and reported on by different media organizations, targeted at the general public, political communities, and other stakeholders. Recent coverage of VIPRE has appeared in inter alia, the Tribune de Genève, the independent outlet Jet d’encre, and the Swiss National Science Foundation’s (SNSF) public-focused Horizons magazine. Given the advanced state of its basic research activities, VIPRE is now moving to focusing on public and practitioner engagement. As part of this work, a series of public exhibitions exploring the conditions of possibility underlying political violence are envisaged, as well as a series of practitioner-focused workshops.