Exploring symbolic violence in the everyday: misrecognition, condescension, consent and complicity

Suruchi Thapar-Björkert, Lotta Samelius, Gurchathen S. Sanghera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


In this paper, we draw on Pierre Bourdieu's concepts of 'misrecognition', 'condescension' and 'consent and complicity' to demonstrate how domination and violence are reproduced in everyday interactions, social practices, institutional processes and dispositions. Importantly, this constitutes symbolic violence, which removes the victim's agency and voice. Indeed, we argue that as symbolic violence is impervious, insidious and invisible, it also simultaneously legitimises and sustains other forms of violence as well. Understanding symbolic violence together with traditional discourses of violence is important because it provides a richer insight into the 'workings' of violence, and provides new ways of conceptualising violence across a number of social fields and new strategies for intervention. Symbolic violence is a valuable tool for understanding contentious debates on the disclosure of violence, women leaving or staying in abusive relationships or returning to their abusers. While we focus only on violence against women, we recognise that the gendered nature of violence produces its own sets of vulnerabilities against men and marginalised groups, such as LGBT. The paper draws on empirical research conducted in Sweden in 2003. Sweden is an interesting case study because despite its progressive gender equality policies, there has been no marked decrease in violence towards women by men.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-162
Number of pages19
JournalFeminist Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


  • Symbolic violence
  • Consent
  • Complicity
  • Misrecognition
  • Condescension
  • Bourdieu


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