Anthropology of categories in peace and conflict

Regine Penitsch (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)
Barbara Karatsioli (Nanterre)
Ainhoa Montoya
Jonathan Friedman
Arts Classhall B
Start time:
27 August, 2010 at 11:30
Session slots:


Processes of "naming" often account for shifts in relations and locations of power. An anthropology of "categories" hierarchically deployed to define 'epochs' of peace and conflict or related notions (e.g. friend from foe) proposes to look critically at the emergence and longevity of "categories" and their negotiation in situations of "conflict" or/and "peace". The meanings within and around these categories are saturated by deeper sociality, by thick webs of social relationships and connections The most powerful naming of categories often takes place in distant time and space from the actual setting. In order to make visible the deep sociality of terms weighted with such power it helps to keep in mind that, first, different actors have specific power over defining and using categories. Second, in power games and processes of inclusion and exclusion access to resources is decided through connections to these categories. Third, an individual's subjectivation to categories accounts for the singular uses of categories; an actor can be simultaneously forced into a category and allowed creative potential within that process. The shift of the scale of observation may help to better illuminate the greyness of the otherwise assumed black and white processes of "conflict" and "peace", or the emerging power of "category" and its evolution. As such, the anthropologist is in the most privileged position. We challenge you to use this position and critically 'anthropologise' the uses and effects of these categories. What is the relevance of such classification, and for whom? And who looses from such categorization?