Beaten Down: A History of Interpersonal Violence in the West

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The word "violence" conjures up images of terrorism, bombings, and lynchings. Beaten Down is concerned with more prosaic acts of physical force -- a husband slapping his wife, a parent taking a birch branch to a child, a pair of drunken friends squaring off to establish who is the ìbetter man.î David Peterson del Mar accounts for the social relations of power that lie behind this intimate form of violence, this ìwhite noiseî that has always been with us, humming quietly between ...
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Overview

The word "violence" conjures up images of terrorism, bombings, and lynchings. Beaten Down is concerned with more prosaic acts of physical force -- a husband slapping his wife, a parent taking a birch branch to a child, a pair of drunken friends squaring off to establish who is the ìbetter man.î David Peterson del Mar accounts for the social relations of power that lie behind this intimate form of violence, this ìwhite noiseî that has always been with us, humming quietly between more explosive acts of violence.

Broad in its chronological and cultural sweep, Beaten Down examines interpersonal violence in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia beginning with Native American cultures before colonization and continuing into the mid-twentieth century. It contrasts the disparate ways of practicing and punishing interpersonal violence on each side of the U.S.-Canadian border. Del Mar concludes that we cannot comprehend the causes and moral consequences of a violent act without considering larger social relations of power, whether between colonizers and original inhabitants, between spouses, between parents and children, or between and among different ethnic groups.

The author has drawn on a vast array of vivid sources, including newspaper accounts, autobiographies, novels, oral histories, historical and ethnographic publications, and hundreds of detailed court cases to account for not only the relative frequency of different forms of violence, but also the shifting definitions and perceptions of what constitutes violence. This is a thoughtful and probing account of how and why people have hit each other and the manner in which opinion makers and ordinary citizens have censured, defended, or celebrated such acts. His conclusions have important implications for an understanding of violence and perceptions of violence in contemporary society.

David Peterson del Mar is adjunct assistant professor of history at Portland State University and Oregon State University. He is the author of What Trouble I Have Seen: A History of Violence against Wives.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Violence in the American West is the stuff of which legends and B-movies have long been made. However, the author, an adjunct professor at both Oregon State and Portland State universities, builds on his earlier Trouble I Have Seen: A History of Violence Against Wives by focusing on interpersonal rather than group-based violence. The author examines such violence in terms of one individual's seeking to assert superiority over another-a power struggle that reflects deep-seated cultural attitudes. This work concentrates on the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia) and ranges from Native American cultures and the first European encounters to the early 20th century-considering violence between spouses, family members, and angered friends and across ethnic or class lines. The research is supported by 100 pages of notes, including documents the British Columbia Supreme Court ordered released to the author. Overall, this is a fascinating examination of a heretofore largely overlooked topic. Recommended for academic libraries.-Daniel Liestman, Florida Gulf Coast Univ., Ft. Myers Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780295982601
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2002
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 0.97 (d)

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