What is it about?

Tolstoy mastered the technique of depicting the familiar as if encountered for the first time. When depicting institutional (or otherwise widely accepted) violence, this jolts the mind and subverts typical assumptions about its legitimacy. Examples are given, and four reasons why it is subversive are proposed.

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Why is it important?

This reflects on what it is that makes 'defamiliarisation' (a technique which Tolstoy is widely seen to have mastered) subversive, and illustrates its potential with institutional violence - which others have used since Tolstoy.


We inflict violence to each other through institutions on a daily basis, and take the legitimacy of such violence for granted. Defamiliarising our perspective can help reflect on how justified such violence really is.

Dr Alexandre Christoyannopoulos
Loughborough University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The subversive potential of Leo Tolstoy’s ‘defamiliarisation’: a case study in drawing on the imagination to denounce violence, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, January 2019, Taylor & Francis,
DOI: 10.1080/13698230.2019.1565700.
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