Today’s conditions of recurrent warfare in many parts of the world have eroded the space previously enjoyed by the discipline of anthropology. Scholars are faced with the challenge of becoming active stakeholders in the very crises that they are studying. Efforts towards peacemaking call not only for critical reflection but also for new imaginative responses to conflict.
A Plenary on warfare, peace and reconciliation can scarcely be more pertinent to the theme of the conference “crisis and imagination”. For better or for worse, war constitutes a challenging crisis for society, entailing an imaginative realignment of social relations; a process that calls for creativity, and the reconstructing of strategies, mythology, history, identity and culture. The global interconnectedness of the current world, along with the rise of claims to a universal ethos of human rights, has happened against a background of genocides and war crimes, minority consciousness, terrorism, etc. Today’s conditions have eroded the space previously enjoyed by the discipline, and present the anthropologist with the challenge of acting as an active stakeholder in the very crisis that he or she studies. Crises precipitated by wars and the no less daunting challenges of peace and reconciliation call not only for critical reflection but also for an imaginative response to their impacts on the very cultures that are central to our discipline. It is hoped that the Plenary will provide a forum for such reflection and imaginative effort towards analysing, theorising, and understanding some of the processes involved in contemporary conflicts, warfare, and peace-making.