The plasma of violence: Towards a preventive medicine for political evil

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


  • plasma

    Submitted manuscript, 545 KB, PDF document

How do people know how – very practically speaking – to be violent? This article explores that question through a Science and Technology Studies perspective. It does so in order to go beyond the usual location of global political violence at a structural level that attributes its emergence principally to hierarchical
orders, formal training, or deep cultural, political, or ideological factors. The alternative explanation offered here draws on Bruno Latour’s concept of ‘plasma’ to sketch a theory of how practices of violence are embedded at a distributed ontological level through the historical accumulation of (popular) cultural,
textual, technological, and other epistemic objects. In making that claim, I seek to stress how violent knowledge circulates outside the formal domains associated with it (the military, police) and is instead preconsciously accessible to each and every person. To support this argument, the article draws on empirical examples of the use of torture, including interviews conducted with Syrian perpetrators of torture, as well as by tracing the paradoxical entanglements between scientific practice and the practice of torture. I
conclude by engaging the field of preventive medicine to speculate on the need to develop modes of violence prevention that appreciate political violence as a population-level sociopolitical problem.
Original languageEnglish
JournalReview of International Studies
Pages (from-to) 105–124
Publication statusPublished - 2022

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Social Sciences - Political Violence, Violence Prevention, Science and Technology Studies, Torture, Popular Culture, Ethnography

Number of downloads are based on statistics from Google Scholar and

No data available

ID: 312282549