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Gresham College: Prof. Joanna Bourke – Understanding Human Violence: #3/6 – Training in Violence: An Essay on Military Hazing


About this lecture

How have the British and American armed forces been taught to fight and kill in conflicts from 1914 to the present? What role have psychology and technology played in military training? How do combatants contribute to, and endure, harsh military drills? Social and cultural life in the barracks will be explored, including ‘rites of passage’ in preparing soldiers for battle.

About this series

Professor Joanna Bourke continues her exploration of human violence in this lecture series which includes a closer look at state torture, violent people and cruelty to animals.

Torture was officially outlawed in France in the 1780s and in Europe during the nineteenth century. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, it has returned as an instrument of state policy. The defence of torture is no longer viewed with abhorrence. How have languages of patriotism, law and order, justice, the ‘civilizing mission’, and human rights been used to foster attitudes towards and practices of torture in Western societies? What should our responses be?

Most of us have witnessed or had personal dealings with violent people. Why do they act as they do? How have British and American commentators during the past two centuries understood violent behaviour? The media incites anxieties about personal vulnerability; widespread innumeracy leads many people to misread crime-statistics, and an expectation of greater civility makes its breach so much more frightening. What can we do to reduce levels of violence in our society?

Understanding the changing relationships between humans and animals is central to our world today. Professor Bourke starts by looking at early-modern understandings of the nature of ‘animal’ and ‘human’ life, before turning to the rise of ‘rights of animals’. She concludes by investigating the late twentieth and early twenty-first century thought about evolution, the Great Apes, and liberationist and ecology movements.

Professor Joanna Bourke

Professor Bourke is a historian and academic. She is currently Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London. She is also Director of the Birkbeck Trauma Project and in 2014, she was elected a Fellow of the British Academy.

She is Visiting Professor of History at Gresham College.

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