EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world
Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006
Peace and conflict studies in anthropology
Location Victoria Victoria's
Date and Start Time 20 Sep, 2006 at 15:00
This is the inaugural event for the new EASA network PACSA (Peace and Conflict Studies in Anthropology).
In 2005, the Board of EASA established the new network PACSA (Peace and Conflict Studies in Anthropology). This panel is the inaugural event for PACSA. In it, a number of distinguished anthropologists working in the field of peace and conflict studies will explore questions such as: (1) What can anthropology contribute to peace and conflict studies in general? (2) What are some of the ethical and normative issues involved in making sense of extreme violence? (3) How can we make anthropological understandings relevant to processes of conflict prevention/resolution and policy-making? From recent years' anthropological publications, workshops and debates, it can be gleaned that issues of armed conflict and other forms of organised violence, conflict resolution, post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation, etc, have moved to the mainstream of anthropological research. Whereas, initially, the question was whether and how anthropologists could and should study such issues, the research agenda of anthropological peace and conflict studies has since been taken further in terms of both methodology and theory. It is PACSA's mission to contribute to this development, not least by bringing together anthropologists who conduct 'fieldwork under fire', or more generally work in the area of peace and conflict studies.
Chair: Ronald Stade
(Why) anthropology, as written by the authors of Peace and Violence
"We exist, it has been said, when we are seen, really seen; when we are heard. Being, then, is more than simply 'thought into existence' being moves, listens, creates... To understand by anything less is 'pale theory'. To predicate solutions on pale theory is nonsensical at best, suicidal at worst. Listen. To who we are. To our story." As written by the two authors Violence and Peace, in the encounter with anthropology.
Thus begins the communiqué in which peace and violence write themselves in the ethnographic journeys of anthropology. In offering what might be termed the "reflexivity of a concept" this piece explores the contributions of anthropology to a world (of better understanding) peace and conflict.
Anthropological analyses of the militaries of the industrialized world
Since the end of the Cold War the international security environment is marked by the blurring of forms of warfare, the emergence of new types of security actors and marked transformations in the composition and training of armed forces. Within these circumstances the diverse ties linking civilians and the military have been transformed - from the macro-level of links between political and military decision-makers, through the mezzo-level of connections between parts of the armed forces and various organizations and social movements to the micro-level of face-to-face encounters. The panel aims to explore these variegated ties through anthropological analyses.
In contrast to prevailing perspectives from sociology and political science marked by a preoccupation with macro-dynamics, a focus only on Euro-American cases and concentration on social structures and political resources, and we seek to explore the unique contribution of anthropology in four areas: (1) widening of the variety of comparative cases to non Euro-American examples (but including them); (2) introducing ethnographically-based explorations allowing scholars to explore the various sites within which military-civilian ties are embedded and their dynamics ties; (3) exploring the cultural dimensions of civil-military relations; and (4) developing further the unique potential of anthropological theories to this emerging field.
Being 'experts': conflict studies at Halle and their involvement in peace processes
The contribution gives a brief overview of the Halle approach to
conflict studies and then moves on to the experience of Halle scholars in the Somalia Peace process, in consultancy work in Ethiopia, and in the Sudan. Relationships of instrumentality are looked at from two opposite ends: It is examined how anthropological approaches can contribute to conflict resolution and how involvement in conflict resolution activities (peace conferences, development intervention in conflict areas, training mediators) can contribute to the anthropological research experience.
Considering war experiences
In contrast to political science-based Peace and Conflict Studies, the multidisciplinary curriculum of Peace and Conflict Studies at Malmö University includes anthropological perspectives on political violence. Pursuing the "what" questions while considering experiences, practices and the creation of meanings that remain invisible in top-down theories of power is seen not only as a complement to the answers attempted to "why" questions. Ethnographic insights as a basis of production of knowledge on civilians' experiences and attitudes in war- and post-war contexts are necessary for understanding the conflicts' dynamics and thus crucial in any attempt of conflict resolution and peace-keeping. The specific contribution of anthropology is indispensable, for its focus on individual agency in local circumstances, and the simultaneous grasping of how they are embedded in national and transnational contexts. A further potential of anthropological contributions to Peace and Conflict Studies refers to the course "War and Art: Representations and Interpretations", where - within a regional focus and time-span that facilitate a comparative approach - different means of representation and different modes of interpretation of war experiences (including visual arts and literature, documentary photography and films) are explored against the background of anthropological texts. Relations between private and political spheres, individual experiences and representations of groups, and definitions of insider and outsider positions are discussed, as well as political and humanitarian mobilization involved in different types of professional engagement.
Peace and conflict studies in anthropology
Anthropological fieldwork under fire and in the aftermath of war is no longer uncommon. Apart from creating a renewed sense of urgency for the question of research ethics, this type of fieldwork also brings back ontological issues to the mainstream of anthropological debate. One aspect of peace and conflict studies in anthropology thus is what consequences research into organized and extreme violence has for anthropology itself. Another aspect concerns what anthropological research can contribute to peace and conflict studies in general, considering that much of peace and conflict studies has become almost indistinguishable from that branch of political science that goes under the name of "international relations". Is there any point in reforming conventional peace and conflict studies? Should anthropologists ignore this field of study and focus on their own research agenda? A third aspect of anthropological peace and conflict research has to do with the wider issue of whether anthropologists should actively engage in creating peace and ending conflict. Alternatively, could we approve of anthropologists supporting one side in an armed conflict? These and related questions will be presented in order to open up for further discussion.