The notion of “symbolic violence” as I will use this comes from the work of Pierre Bourdieu, this notion represents an extension of the term “violence” to include various modes of social/cultural domination. Symbolic violence is the unnoticed (partly unconscious) domination that every-day social habits maintain over the conscious subject. Symbolic violence should not be confused with “media violence.” It is not the acts of murder and mayhem portrayed on television. Actually, symbolic violence is not normally even “recognized” as violence. For example, gender domination, and gender itself (say, in the construction of sexuality) represents one prominent arena of symbolic violence.
Institutionalized modes of “discipline and punishment,” as Foucault noted (in his work of the same name (1979)), have also acquired a positive social value, without much further thought about the violence involved in these practices. Indeed, Bourdieu tells us that such “soft” violence has been mostly overlooked in social theories, and is subject to “misrecognition” in everyday life. Misrecognition allows symbolic violence to hide itself within dominant discourses as these are spoken, and within other forms of violence as these are applied to bodies.
We can further locate symbolic violence as those forms of soft violence which, through their misrecognition, are applied by the subject to the subject. Misrecognition is integral to the effects of symbolic violence, which opens this up to precisely the forms of therapy available in neighborhood festivals.
Much of the symbolic violence that Bourdieu is describing is “purely” psychological in the sense that it is internal to the self-consciousness of the individual, most often without tell-tale, observable features; to counter this, some form of individual psychotherapy is required. Psychotherapy replaces the misrecognition of this form of symbolic violence with reflexive discourses that allow the individual access to their self-consciousness.
However, some forms of symbolic violence operate upon the body, and these articulate a (misrecognized) relationship between the individual’s self-consciousness and their body. The body becomes the site of this violence. These embodied violences articulate the non-discursively available portion of social identity, which is reproduced simultaneously within the self-consciousness and also as a social practice, that is, as a shared habitus.