Theories and Histories of Nonviolence

How can nonviolent thoughts and actions survive in times of violence? 

Modernity in the twentieth century has seen an unprecedented violence. This is a founding contradiction of the twentieth century: that it has produced simultaneously the most liberating and emancipatory ideas for human kind even while creating the worst capabilities and instruments for inflicting violence. Violence has repressed, enslaves, immiserated and mutilated entire populations, and even threatens our very planetary existence. 

There is also the historical fact that collective struggles for liberation and emancipation have relied on violence to achieve their ends and sometimes those ends were met but the violence did not abate. We live now in a time when the modern state uses extensive repressive apparatus. Can we imagine a world that abjures violence in contemporary times? 

How can non violent thoughts and actions survive in the face of such immense real and potential violence? What kind of ethics and moral conviction does it necessitate? What are the philosophical and cultural resources and historical precedents for political struggle based on nonviolent resistance? How has nonviolence as a strategy of political action fared in the context of actual movements in different parts of the world? These are some of the questions that this course raises and invites you to reflect upon.

We will look at nonviolence and world religions, philosophical roots of modern nonviolence, Gandhian nonviolence, nonviolence and anti-racism movements, and nonviolence in a violent world such as Black Lives Matter, Dalit Lives Matter, and Not in My Name.