Ruth Amossy

Is Boycotting a Form of Violence? An Argumentative Perspective

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This paper examines from an argumentative perspective a topic that problematizes the notion of violence in the public sphere: boycott as explained and justified on ideological grounds. On the one hand, it is defined as a non-violent mode of struggle, a substitute for brutal sedition or armed conflict. Its claims to legitimacy are based on this very rejection of physical violence. On the other hand, it silences the Other and denies him the right to participate in any kind of interaction, be it polemical. It might thus be accused of exerting symbolic violence – a severe ostracism that deprives the adversary of his/her right to speak, to be heard, and to promote his/her views. To examine these questions, I first go through some definitions of the different forms of violence and of boycotts. I then proceed to a discursive and argumentative analysis of a few founding texts presenting justifications of, and attacks on, the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement. My objective is not to condemn or defend it, but to capture the complexity of the issue of boycott violence when examined from a non-activist, reflexive perspective


  • Argumentation
  • Boycott
  • BDS
  • Violence
  • Symbolic Violence


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