Taking on modern violence in a wide range of contexts from Venezuela to Southeast Asia, the University’s own Fernando Coronil and Julie Skurski, professors in the history and anthropology departments, will celebrate the release of their new book, – “States of Violence” – at a book-signing event at Shaman Drum Bookshop Friday at 4 p.m.
Fernando Coronil, a Venezuelan citizen, is also the director of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, while Skurski is also an associate director of the doctoral program in anthropology and history. Clearly, the two make quite the anthropological and historical pair. “States of Violence” is a fresh approach to structural violence undulated by a pride of their favored disciplines.
Coronil and Skurski use history and interpretation to understand contemporary structural violence – violence connected to the state and linked with social realities like racism, marginalization and impoverishment of peoples around the globe. The two faculty members also participated in a University conference on structural violence after doing work on social unrest in Venezuela. Their article, “Dismembering and Remembering the Nation: The Semantics of Political Violence in Venezuela,” was published in 1991.
“There is a significant connection with the role of Venezuela and the book (States of Violence),” Coronil said.
The idea of the conference and the book was promoted by Raymond Grew, professor emeritus of history. He is also the former editor of the international quarterly, Comparative Studies in Society and History. “States of Violence” is part of a series of books by CSSH and is dedicated to Grew.
A collection of essays, “States of Violence” covers a wide range of time and geographic regions. The essays are detailed case studies and many concern colonial and early post-independence eras. The reader can also expect to find recurring themes like the clash between so-called “civilization” and “barbarization.”
“They are interpretative kinds of essays that give attention to language and how people are categorized,” Skurski said.
One essay that inspects this idea of interpretation comes from feminist professor Veena Das of John Hopkins University. She writes of Indian laws regarding rape in “Sexual Violence, Discursive Formations, and the State.” More specifically, Das examined legal definitions that classify certain cases not as rape, but as normal impulses of man.
Also noteworthy are University contributors Charles Bright of the Residential College and the history department, Juan Cole of the history department and former University professor E. Valentine Daniel, now in the anthropology department at Columbia University. The book includes an article from each of them, covering topics on violence in Jackson State Prison, Afro-Asian uprisings and Sri Lankan estate Tamils.
In tackling the book, both Coronil and Skurski sought new truth in light of historical perspective. This well-grounded approach to their subject brings an interdisciplinary strength that is the book’s hallmark.
“In our contemporary world, we hope people can learn and understand the historical origins that lead up to today’s events,” Skursi said. “People, then, can draw a lot of conclusions.”
“The University of Michigan is known nationally for its support of interdisciplinary work and this book is a good example,” Coronil added.
Fernando Coronil and Julie Skurski
Friday at 4 p.m.
At Shaman Drum