The body facing the violence in education: Critical options from somaesthetics

Taiki Matsuda

Introduction: from the social philosophy of violence to somaesthetics

When it comes to the themes of education and violence, corporal punishment and bullying immediately come to mind for many people in Japan because their occurrences have had a long history in the country.1 There have been incidents where students, suffering from trauma due to corporal punishment or bullying, were driven to commit suicide. Even now, there arc teachers using corporal punishment and students experiencing bullying. To get over these severe situations, we must attempt to solve the problems as soon as possible.

This chapter aims to ultimately solve the problem of violence. There is no research on violence that has not attempted to solve it. However, it is impossible to solve violence with naive humanism as reflected in die sentiments of “Students are precious!” and “Bullying is a crime!” We must understand die essence of violence and die involvement of human beings in it. To resolve or curb violence, we have to accept it despite any judgments, direcdy confront it, and rigorously analyze its actuality. Odierwise, we will never establish any kind of philosophy against violence. Merely shouting, “No violence!” in a boring humanist attitude is not enough. Violence is our fate; it is needless to refer to dieories of violence. We have to face it with strengdi and power.

In this chapter, I first show how the social philosophy of violence reveals the anthropological mechanism of violence through the discussion in my doctoral dissertation. Then, to think about how we could confront violence, I will refer to somaesthetics, which is an important discipline for us in terms of the problem. Our body relates deeply to violence, which means that we live as bodily existences. Somaesthetics can inform us of how the body faces violence. First, it is necessary to discuss the situations of violence.


Corporal punishment

In December 2012, unable to cope with the corporal punishment dealt by a teacher daily, a student at Sakuranomiya High School in Osaka committed suicide. The teacher was the advisor of the basketball club of which this student was a member. This incident and related situations were widely broadcasted at the time and highlighted a problem not only in physical education and sports fields but the entire Japanese society. Specifically, the atmosphere of violence in Japanese education and sports activities became visible. In response to this, educational and sports-related organizations, such as the Japan Olympic Committee, the Japanese Society of Physical Education, Health and Sports Science, and the Japanese Association for the Analysis of Behavior—issued statements calling for the eradication of corporal punishment. These statements included strong appeals indicating that corporal punishment violated the human rights and independence of students and athletes and did not lead to any improvements in athletic performance.

However, some people also asserted the validity of corporal punishment. Apart from the claims in private spaces in social network service [SNS], some books have affirmed and recommended corporal punishment. In fact, there are positive opinions about corporal punishment that insist that it is a useful method to give students or sports players a panic-inducing wake-up call to become stronger to achieve victory in competitive games.

As seen above, there are contrasting opinions about corporal punishment in Japan. The controversy over corporal punishment has existed since the Mciji period; the structures of the conflict was the same as it is now. There was a negative opinion that corporal punishment was educationally harmful. There was also a positive opinion that asserted the legal validity of corporal punishment if it has some kinds of meanings to students or players. People against corporal punishment regard this history as a negative heritage and have criticized it.


Like corporal punishment, bullying has occurred for a long time in Japan. A severe incident of bullying that occurred recently in Japan was the case of a junior high school student in Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture, who killed himself in 2011 due to bullying. The boy was routinely assaulted, instructed to shoplift, and given violent messages such as, “You will die,” by the assailants. The assailants received—but ignored—emails from the victim suggesting that he had suicidal ideation. Eventually, the boy jumped from his apartment home to his death. This incident was seriously criticized not only because it was horrible, but also because the school and the board of education did not appropriately respond to the situation. They did not take any suitable precautionary measures or follow-up actions based on the information that they had obtained about the bullying. The fact that the school and the teachers could have prevented the bullying to save the boy but were unable to do so was deeply lamented by people in Japan.

Bullying among teachers as well as students has become a major problem. Another incident that was widely broadcasted occurred in Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture, in 2019. A teacher was being bullied by his colleagues, who shoved curry onto his eyes and trampled his car. Although the assailants were punished,

The body facing the violence in education 95 the teacher who was being bullied experienced the onset of a mental illness due to the bullying.

More researchers are interested in bullying than in corporal punishment. In some studies, corporal punishment is treated as a form of bullying of the students by the teachers.

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