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HOME arrow MANUAL arrow Self-learning arrow The PeerThink self-learn tools on peer violence, gender and ethnicity_”race”_culture
The PeerThink self-learn tools on peer violence, gender and ethnicity_”race”_culture
PeerThink is a project on Violence prevention in Europe. It is concerned with Peer violence and the settings where such Violence appears.
With these self-learn sessions we follow three aims:
  • share (our) knowledge
  • we believe that the prevention of interpersonal peer violence is first of all the prevention from becoming a perpetrator, without perpetrators less victims. We also believe that our societies imply certain violent structures. We want to create a connection between these two concepts and show the links between interpersonal peer violence and structural violence.
  • we want to establish a view on young persons that sees them as individual persons on the one hand and on the other hand to realise the structural conditions (for example; Gender norms, access to Education, relations of production, ethnical norms) that exist in a society.

Since young people are present in many pedagogical spheres, we – researchers, pedagogues and people concerned from 5 countries1 – tried to cover also a broad field: schools, Youth clubs, political education, street work; but also society in general. The youth and the violence are very much related to the society they appear in. That is why we take into account structural living conditions. We also take into account the diversity of the young people: their genders, their bodies, their ethnical, educational and Class backgrounds, their ideas about work, life and relationships, their roles as people who use, experience, witness and avoid violence... To include different social settings and categories and to treat them as relational and depending on concrete contexts and social structures, that is what we call “intersectional”. “ntersectionality” as a concept is quite en vogue in some scientific discourses, but due to its complexity it is hard to apply in practical work. We want to give a short idea on different intersectional approaches and how they deal with categories, because this is central. As Leslie McCall (2005) puts it:

“[These] three approaches, in brief, are defined principally in terms of their stance toward categories, that is, how they understand and use analytical categories to explore the complexity of Intersectionality in social life. The first approach is called anticategorical complexity because it is based on a methodology that deconstructs analytical categories. Social life is considered too irreducibly complex – overflowing with multiple and fluid determinations of both subjects and structures – to make fixed categories anything but simplifying social fictions that produce inequalities in the process of producing differences. Of the three approaches, this approach appears to have been the most successful in satisfying the demand for complexity, judging by the fact that there is now great skepticism about the possibility of using categories in anything but a simplistic way. (…)
Jumping to the other end of the continuum next, the third approach is neither widely known nor widely used, making its introduction a key purpose of this article. This approach, intercategorical complexity, requires that scholars provisionally adopt existing analytical categories to document relationships of inequality among social groups and changing configurations of inequality along multiple and conflicting dimensions. (…)
Finally, although the approach I call intracategorical complexity inaugurated the study of intersectionality, I discuss it as the second approach because it falls conceptually in the middle of the continuum between the first approach, which rejects categories, and the third approach, which uses them strategically. Like the first approach, it interrogates the boundary-making and boundary-defining process itself, though that is not its raison d’être. Like the third approach, it acknowledges the stable and even durable relationships that social categories represent at any given point in time, though it also maintains a critical stance toward categories. This approach is called intracategorical complexity because authors working in this vein tend to focus on particular social groups at neglected points of intersection – “people whose identity crosses the boundaries of traditionally constructed groups” (Dill 2002, 5) – in order to reveal the complexity of lived experience within such groups.”

(McCall 2005, The complexity of interctionality, p. 1772f.)

So, intersectionality is a complex analytical tool for inequalities, but what can practical violence prevention learn from it ? We assume that a better analysis can make a better practice. Therefore, first of all, we need some knowledge about structural categories in order to manage a better analysis of the complex picture of inequalities which affect the kids and young people or the youth…


Young people, who are you? The PeerThink-projects focusses mainly on young people between 14 and 21, but the numbers are rather a statistical factor. More interesting is the content and process of this phase between childhood and the gaining of independence, which in these days are very much influenced by unclear perspectives, less security and a more gradual entry into working life and adult responsibilities. Young people have to find out who they are and who they want to be, which is only possible by experiencing “the difference”, by being “different”. This is difficult in societies where everything is already quite different, where the demand of self-realisation produced multiple forms of experiences and where the youth has to be very creative and radical to improve the adults' state of the art. On the other hand, the sanctions a peer group applies to somebody who doesn't meet the common standards of coolness, can be quite brutal. It is the period when the suicide rate is highest. Youth is a “temporary period in which the personality is deconstructed and reconstructed, adolescence is beginning earlier and earlier. Young people’s expression of their individuality by taking account of their wishes and tastes is widely encouraged by the expansion of a huge consumer market, from clothing to eating habits, through the explosion of the leisure industry, especially the sport and cultural sectors.”2  
Having a whole range of studies on socialisation and young people's lives at disposal, what do we really know about them, when they enter the classroom, the youth centre, the workshop? What do we know about their experiences with violence, as victims, perpetrators, as witnesses? In the media, usually violent incidents are scandalised by the means of a personal story, but very often it is continued with statistics on peer violence (likely with a penchant to ethnicisation) and political demands or generalising proposals for solutions (certain computer games should be prohibited). The certain young person, be their victim or perpetrator, vanishes out of sight as a human being and becomes a social problem. In these days, the Discourse on peer violence follows certain patterns, some topics are:

  • there are perpetrators and victims (what about reciprocal violence? What about witnesses?)
  • physical violence (including sexual violence) is still the most scandalised form of violence (we ask why structural forms of violence like sexism or racism are hardly conceptualised)
  • There are strong constructions of an “us” (the ones who define the violence and who is bad/guilty and who is the victim) and “the others” (the minority groups, often defined by ethnical, cultural or religious background, the abnormal groups, for example, violent girls)
  • Living in “risk societies”, the demands for security and prevention are exorbitant (even for repression). We think the constructions of “risk” and “security” are themselves problematic, therefore we strive for a critical use of these words in the context of (intersectional) violence prevention. (Whose risk? Risk of what; ecological catastrophes or being robbed? “Security” is used for public spaces as well as in militaristic language… things get blurred by language.)

How does this tool work ?

With these tools for self-learning we want to give some food for thought for practitioners, input for self-reflection and rather concrete ideas for practical implementation. The structure of the tool is quite simple: there are three sessions, one on violence and violence prevention, one on gender and one on racism. Each session stands for itself.

Each session contains these elements:

  • there is some text for reading, which explains some of the important terms, concepts and theories of each topic. Sometime it appears as questions which try to be a  bit humorous;
  • there are questions for your own self-reflection, to connect the topic to your own experiences.



1 Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia
2 http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/france_159/label-france_2554/label-france-issues_2555/label-france-no.-51_3594/feature-france-the-new-generation_3595/edito_4719.html (14.8.08)