Ferguson, the Middle East, the Chanteuse Lauryn Hill, and Dialogue

Gaza. Syria. Iraq.

Ferguson. Staten Island.

And other places where lives have been lost due to senseless violence.

As much of the world reels from news about chaotic events in the Middle East, the United States adds Staten Island and Ferguson, MO. to the tales of terror.

How can violence be stopped? Humanities discourse has long struggled with the question of violence. There is no time like the present for scholars of the humanities to boldly refuse the safety of neutrality regarding the question of how to achieve a purposeful life when under threat.

Artists are jumping into the discourse. Lauryn Hill adds her lyrical talents to the tale of Ferguson. Her recent release, “Black Rage,” speaks to a history violence.

As a nation, do we realize that a youth whose ethnic identity places him/her/zher at a mortal disadvantage leaves all of us vulnerable?

The work of Michel Foucault proves useful for shedding light on the problem of violence.

As I have written before in my paper, “Space, Voice, Gender, and Intersectionality: Bridging the Theoretical Gap,” (2010), once parties engaged in hierarchical relations realize that reciprocity is one possible method of resolving conflict, then possibilities for dialogue may occur. While Foucault shies away from a prescriptive format for establishing friendly relations, he does go so far as to advocate for what he calls, “reciprocal elucidation,” meaning acknowledgment of a person’s rights within the context of a discussion.

It is important to note, that under Foucault’s framework, emphasis is placed on dialogue, not monologue. I suggest that listening to the work of Lauryn Hill, and other artists creating responses to the recent atrocities, may be a step toward creating dialogue.


Foucault, Michel. “The Eye of Power” published in the book Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings. New York: Pantheon Books, 1980.