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Latest update: November 3, 2000
Curran or Takata.
Review and Essay by Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
Part of Peacemaking Identity Series
Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata, November 2000. "Fair Use" encouraged.
agency"Agency," as we have been using it in our theory discussions, is the ability to control and/or to make a difference through decision-making power. Thus, we would say that one has agency when one can control or make a difference in the outcome.
Examples with Recognition and Recall. Does X have agency? Within what constraints?
"the laying on of alternatives"Comes from the laying on of hands. Ritual for the passing on of title to authority. "The color of law."
Tell the story of the 40 year old who was just laid off. His family's alternatives. His alternatives. And "agency."
structural contextNormative constraints that shape our behavior and beliefs. These constraints are not imposed by someone else's agency or sovereignty, but by the normative rules and expectations of the culture, language, institutions, and practice that bind us as a social group.
One of the most important aspects of structural context in the sense that we have been using it in our theoretical discussions is that it does not involve specific intent to control.
Sometimes, in the end-of-the-millennium panic that feeds on our need to "know" into the future, and to "control," we try to control with conscious intent by rules and regulations. Consider the rules and regulations thrown up to "control" immigration, for example. Generally, such attempts result in bad law, for the law, once enacted, applies equally to all, at least in theory. Law designed to "control" specific groups or specific situations must define those situations with such accuracy that the discretion or "agency" needed by the law to adapt itself in fairness to all situations is destroyed. This usually results in mechanical or instrumental reasoning, such as that of the Olympic Committee when it stripped a young gymnast of her gold medal because she had taken a medically prescribed drug for an actual medical condition. The drug was on the Olympic Committee's list of prohibited drugs because of its performance enhancement properties. But the situation was not applicable; the young gymnast could have received no performance boost from the drug. The Olympic Committee acknowledged that, but stripped her of the medal anyway. Why? To show its commitment to its own drug policy! Now, that's bad law! Law enforced with the intent of establishing dominance in the power of the law, rather than law providing basic guidance to solve the actual predicaments which occur in our lives together.
The inflexibility of bad law is not the kind of control envisioned in our discussions of structural context and structural violence. Rules, rituals, normative expectations develop within all the components of our institutionalized life together: in the family, in the church or other spiritual center, in school, at work, in social gatherings (at local hang-out bars as well as at tea rooms). But their intent is rarely personal. It is controlling, but controlling in the sense we usually call "socialization."
When the structural context constrains you, it generally restrains you as a representative of some category or group.
. . .