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10 May 2004 | Draft

Varieties of Encroachment

- / -

Annex to Errorism vs Terrorism? Encroachment, Complicity, Denial and Terraism (2004)

The following clusters of examples illustrate the generality of encroachment as a process. The equivalence between the various strategies of encroachment is discussed in the main article.

Encroachment of bio-physical space
-- Territorial encroachment
-- Environmental encroachment
Encroachment of socio-political space
-- Group encroachment
-- Political encroachment
-- Legal and government encroachment
Encroachment of economic space
-- Encroachment of commercial space
-- Encroachment of profit-making
Military-industrial encroachment
-- Industrial encroachment
-- Military encroachment
-- Encroachment of technology
Encroachment of psycho-cultural space
-- Communication encroachment
-- Encroachment of knowledge space
-- Ideological encroachment
-- Encroachment of symbolic space
Encroachment of inter-personal space
-- Encroachment of behavioural space
-- Encroachment of personal space
-- Sexual encroachment
Temporal encroachment
Structural encroachment
-- Conceptual violence
-- Spiritual violence

In this draft relatively little attention has been given to distinguishing between "encroachment by xxxx" in contrast with "encroachment of yyyy", "encroachment on yyyy" -- which may be highly significant in some cases. The different meanings tend to be indicated here in the same cluster.


Territorial encroachment

The following cases focus primarily on land and property defined by fixed boundaries:

Environmental encroachment

The process in this case is often justified by the urgency of favouring "jobs" (or "industry", "shelter", etc) over "environment":


Group encroachment

Political encroachment

Legal and government encroachment

This is the process whereby other patterns of encroachment are given substance through legislation, "red tape" and criminalization of alternative activities:


Encroachment of commercial space

These cases concern the use of (possibly socially irresponsible) marketing strategies to encroach upon pre-existing patterns of production, service delivery and consumption:

Encroachment of profit-making


Industrial encroachment

Industrial encroachment is usually a feature of urban sprawl and is a consequence of inadequate balance between economic development and preservation of natural resources (e.g. open space, land, water). Such uncontrolled industrial development has pushed many immigrant communities to the brink of extinction. Unused urban spaces may lie between industrial complexes and residential neighborhoods. New development then take place across the street from people's homes resulting in a reduction in the quality of life for the families who live in those homes. A particularly serious conflict arises when an industrial concern attempts to use this land for activities that could be considered noxious (anything that produces an abundance of pollution, noise, or unpleasant odors).

Military encroachment

Encroachment of technology

There is increasing concern to protect consumers from encroaching technology products and services. In the case of education, for example, there is concern that new technologies come to substitute for those contexts and methods recognized as essential for learning to write. According to Michael Weinstein (Culture/Flesh: Explorations of Postcivilized Modernity), people fiddling with their own natures -- doing things like gulping tranquilizers, sleeping in hyperbaric chambers, and flagpole sitting.-- in order to cope with encroaching technology. David Silver (Three Approaches Towards Encroaching Technology).


Communication encroachment

These cases effectively relate to intangible products and services and may be labelled as "cultural imperialism":

Encroachment of knowledge space

Ideological encroachment

In contrast with the intangible products and services described above, the following cases relate to concepts and insights that are much more distantly related to tangibles and are more likely to be characterized as "spiritual pollution" rather than as "cultural pollution":

Encroachment of symbolic space


Behavioural encroachment

Relationships between two people that involve an investment of trust by one party in the capabilities, knowledge or expertise of the other -- to act in the former's self-interest -- are known as fiduciary relationships. They include relationships between teachers and students, lawyers and their clients, doctors and patients, clergy and parishioner, therapist and client. In these cases encroachment is experienced in terms of the dynamics of behaviour, and may be associated with forms of ingratiation. The cases are experienced as problematic to different degrees in different cultures, notably with respect to authority (cf Geert Hofstede):

Encroachment of personal space

In contrast with the personal space defined by fixed boundaries (see above), two forms of individual space are distinguished (by the communication discipline of proxemics) and associated with distinct forms of encroachment (often labelled in each case as "crowding"):

Sexual encroachment

These are effectively special instances of encroachment on personal space in which boundaries are tested by increasingly "daring" initiatives, usually involving some form of physical contact (touching, fondling, etc) that are at the boundaries of unremarkable acceptability:


In this case the encroachment by some is focused on the temporal "space" to which others attach value:


This can be seen as a more contextual process that is more difficult to characterize by reference to detail, but is evident primarily in its consequences. Typically it is associated with the maintenance, development and institutionalization of systems of privilege and the marginalization and further impoverishment of the underprivileged. Johan Galtung (of TRANSCEND) argues that only amateurs engage in physical violence, whereas professionals engage in "structural violence" through manipulating social conditions to their own advantage.

Following this line of argument, perhaps the most skilled even engage in "conceptual violence" (typically associated with stereotyping) -- or even "spiritual violence".

Conceptual violence: Gandhi went so far as to suggest that physical violence represents merely a reflection of a deeper layer of conceptual violence: "Our violence in word and deed is but a feeble echo of the surging violence of thought in us." The implications of conceptual violence for practice have been explored in the light of Michel Foucault's "joined up thinking" [more].

Such understandings of the powerful subtlety of conceptual violence are acknowledged and supported by modern techniques of interrogation -- namely that it is not physical violence that is most effective, but rather creating the the fearful anticipation of that violence. In a perverse parallel to the "grooming" practiced by paedophiles, interrogators deliberately create a context for their final acts through isolation, disorientation and environments of menace. As indicated by Vikram Dodd (Torture by the Book, 2004) with regard to the methods of interrogation used by the coalition forces in Iraq and elsewhere, this is euphemistically described in interrogation manuals as "setting the conditions" -- officially denied by the US government as constituting torture.

Dodd notes that one CIA interrogation manual (Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual, 1983), that seemingly guide practices in Iraq, indicates:

The purpose of all coercive techniques is to induce psychological regression in the subject by bringing a superior outside froce to bear on his will to resist. Regression is basically a loss of autonomy.

Detention should be planned to enhance... feelings of being cut off from anything known and reassuring.

The threat of coercion usually weakens or destroys resistance more effectively than coercion itself

Pain that he feels he is inflicting on himself is more likely to sap resistance... After a while the subject is likely to exhaust his internal motivational strength.

These techniques, according to Dodd, build in part on an earlier CIA manual entitled KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation (1963) [more | more | more] which notably highlights the value of non-coercion:

The effectiveness of most of the non-coercive techniques depends upon their unsettling effect. The interrogation situation is in itself disturbing to most people encountering it for the first time. The aim is to enhance this effect, to disrupt radically familiar emotional and psychological associations ... When this aim is achieved, resistance is seriously impaired. There is an interval ... of suspended animation, a kind of psychological shock or paralysis. It is caused by a traumatic or sub-traumatic experience which explodes, as it were, the world that is familiar to the subject as well as his image of himself within that world. At this moment the source is far likelier to comply.

Spiritual violence: This is not a new phenomenon. It has taken an endless variety of forms and expressions throughout human history. From the condemnation and casting out of people who don't believe the prevailing religion to hanging witches and burning heretics, spiritual violence has been one of the most persistent and creative human activities ever manifested in social behavior [more | more]. Its restriction to particular issues, of concern to particular religions or groups, is itself a form of spiritual violence characteristic of structural encroachment.

Again this form of violence may be seen as epitomized in particular "non-violent" approaches to interrogation. In the case of Muslims in Iraq (or Guantanamo Bay), for example, this involves a creative range of techniques designed specifically to humiliate and degrade men holding Islamic beliefs (nakedness, sexual acts, obligation to don women's underwear, exposure to sodomy, use of dogs, etc) and notably supervised by women. Not only may these practices be deemed sacrilegious, their polluting effects may also be believed to endanger the person's salvation (especially if, as is typical of fundamentalists, women are conceived as sinister and satanic, the embodiment of sin and seduction). The spiritual impact of this "non-violence" derives in part from its being undertaken under the leadership (and with the knowledge) of Judeo-Christians deeply committed to their own faiths and promoting values they label as "freedom" and "human rights".

"Spiritual violence is most dangerous when it is most spiritual -- that is least emotional. Violence which acts in the depths of the will without any surface upheaval carries our whole being into captivity with no apparent struggle. Such is the violence of deliberate and unresisted sin which seems to be not violence but peace".
Thomas Merton
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