Offering insights from a career of developing peace education and scholarship in a context of endemic violence, John engaged with dual notions of troubling violence.
He examined the multiple ways in which violence has come to characterise life and learning in South Africa. ‘Violence has come to dominate the South African consciousness. Long histories of violence are troubling because of the dehumanisation and desensitisation violence promotes and the new cycles of violence thus engendered,’ he said.
John explained there was now engineering of new structural violence in South Africa characterised by deaths caused by lack of food and health care as a result of poverty. ‘The casualties are our learners who fall into pit latrines and the Life Esidemeni patients. Poverty and inequality are our most troubling forms of structural violence,’ he said.
John also noted that children who had been abused or exposed to violence at an early age were more likely to engage in risky sexual activity and substance abuse, and to develop a range of health problems. These, in turn, had negative consequences for school, work and later relationships. He identified bullying as another challenge in places of learning.
Switching focus from analysis to action, John then discussed interventions, ‘which allow educators to trouble the normalisation and inevitability of violence through creative and transformative practices and partnerships.’
He also emphasized how the development of a powerful praxis through productive relationships across community engagement, teaching and research could generate transformative learning, humanising pedagogy and critical scholarship.