Marginalization and symbolic violence in a world of differences: war and parallels to nursing practice

Nurs Philos. 2004 Apr;5(1):41-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1466-769X.2004.00165.x.


Marginalization has been used as a guiding concept for nursing research, theory and practice. Its properties have been identified and updated in 1994 and 1999, respectively. This article re-examines marginalization, considering it to be a concept that changes with pivotal historical events. The events of September 11, 2001, and the war between the US/UK and Iraq are such pivotal events. The notion of the linguistic habitus and symbolic violence as outlined by Bourdieu provide new insights about the dynamics of marginalization. Specifically noted is the marginalization of persons and cultures based on their designation by the current US administration, and as interpreted through mainstream media, as actual or potential 'terrorists'. A parallel situation in nursing is discussed, beginning with nursing's own marginality, related to the dynamics of symbolic violence. Nursing is argued to be vulnerable to having essential words and practices co-opted by dominant institutions and altered in meaning, that is, made incongruent with the discipline's emphasis on core values of confidentiality, equity and care. In response to marginalization and exteriorization those affected can use voice and testimony to 'recreate the centre'. Suggestions for protecting our practices and philosophy are included.

MeSH terms

  • Empathy
  • Humans
  • Iraq
  • Philosophy, Nursing*
  • Symbolism*
  • Terrorism
  • United States
  • Violence*
  • Vulnerable Populations*
  • Warfare*