Accepted paper:

War as rite: anthropological theory and its application


Paul Richards (Njala University, Sierra Leone)

Paper abstract:

Recent interest in civil wars has stressed rational choice theory as a basis for explanation. Anthropological theory offers an alternative - war as cult. Some instances of this analytical approach will be given. Anthropological models of cult dynamics draw on the central Durkheimian concept of effervescence. Mary Douglas, in her late work, offered a critique of the concept of effervescence and new proposals for its control. Where war is driven by cult dynamics peace-making requires a better understanding of effervescence than we currently possess. The emergent field of neuroanthropology may offer some clues as to the nature of the mechanisms involved. The unexpected ending of civil war in Sierra Leone is offered as an instance of these mechanisms at work.

panel Plenary A
Anthropology of warfare, peace and reconciliation