Nonviolence and Communication

Journal article

Martin, Brian & Wendy Varney (2003) Nonviolence and Communication, Journal of Peace Research 40 (2).

Communication is central to the effectiveness of nonviolent action: methods of protest and persuasion are essentially means of communication, while methods of non-cooperation and nonviolent intervention have crucial communicative dimensions. As a mode of political communication, nonviolence can be contrasted with rational dialogue. electoral politics and violence. and stands out from them in combining high transformative potential with dialogue and participation. The more well-studied dimensions of nonviolence as communication are dialogue with opponents, power equalization to prepare for dialogue and mobilization of third parties. To these should be added two further dimensions, collective and individual empowerment. Two cases of nonviolent resistance in the Soviet Union - the 1991 coup and the 1953 prison camp strikes at Norilsk and Yorkuta - are used to illustrate the dimensions of nonviolence as communication in practice. These examples reveal the importance of communication in nonviolent action. They also suggest the difficulty in gaining information on empowerment, especially individual empowerment, which may be one reason why these dimensions have been neglected. The five-dimension framework of nonviolence as communication has the limitation that many actions mix two or more dimensions. Examining the communicative dimensions of nonviolence can alert both activists and researchers to the fact that nonviolent actions do not 'speak for themselves'.

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