EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010


Anthropology of categories in peace and conflict

Location Arts Classhall B
Date and Start Time 27 Aug, 2010 at 11:30


Regine Penitsch (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology) email
Barbara Karatsioli (Queen's University Belfast ) email
Mail All Convenors

Long Abstract

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?

Chair: Ainhoa Montoya
Discussant: Jonathan Friedman

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.


Communal categories, normative ethnicity and the peace process in Ireland

Author: Andrew Finlay (Trinity College, Dublin)  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

This paper traces the development of binary system of communal categories during the peace process in Northern Ireland, focusing on the idea that 'autochthones' must belong to one or other of the two communities specified in the peace agreement reached on Good Friday 1998. The rationale underpinning this 'normative ethnicity' is explored in three interlinked government programmes: the 1991 census, equality legislation and successive consultations regarding the possibility of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. The data are discussed in relation to broader debates about conflict management, the state and governmentality.

The nation: a category for peace or only for conflict?

Author: Barbara Karatsioli (Queen's University Belfast )  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

Based on a research in Cyprus this paper explores the role of the nation in conflict and peace processes. Does peace need the nation as much as conflict did? Does peacebuilding redefine the nation and the state?

For the last two centuries the nation is the category that makes the state. The coexistence of nations in a state has often proven to be a major cause for conflict. The Republic of Cyprus constituted in 1960 is an impressive exemple of the failure of coexistence of two national groups in one state. In 1963, only three years after its constitution, the Turkish Cypriot community had withdrawn already from the republic. Since that date, the Republic of Cyprus has only represented Greek Cypriots. In 1983, nine years after the Turkish military intervention and the subsequent partition of the island, the Turkish Cypriots have proclaimed in the north part of Cyprus the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus", a state without international recognition.

Efforts have been made since the partition to re-unite the island but it not until the 1990s that a bicommunal movement sees the day. The impossible category of the "Cypriot" now finds its claimants amongst Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

The study of the individuals' subjectivation to these new and old determinations of the category helps explore the viability and changes in the category though peace and conflict as well as the possibility for a viable "state of the nation".

The 'Arabs versus African' dichotomy in the Darfur conflict

Author: Regine Penitsch (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

The international media presents the conflict in Darfur as one between the Sudanese government backed by Arab militias on one side, and African insurgents on the other. In this paper I argue that the "Arabs versus Africans" explanation is a simplification, but there are reasons why it exists. I show the historical emergence of this dichotomy and argue that this polarization of identities is not a root cause but an outcome of the conflict in Darfur. I demonstrate that it can be upheld only by concealing crucial facts that do not fit the dichotomy. These omissions in the narrative about the Darfur conflict serve political elites involved in the civil war as instruments in complex power struggles. My aim with the disentanglement of the Arab-African-dichotomy may support a better understanding of the needs, motivations and aims of the different actors involved in the conflict and its ongoing dynamics.

Concepts of peace in a post-conflict period, Sudan 2009

Author: Margret Otto (Fernuniversität Hagen)  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

The subject of my paper is the meaning and potential of an individual understanding of peace amongst people in a post-conflict period. The research is based on qualitative interviews with Sudanese citizens in March 2009.

There are lots of political standpoints on how to conceptualize peace when war comes to an end. However, in my paper I look at the potentials and priorities that people in a postconflict society see themselves. Usually personal conceptions of peace are linked to personal experiences and expectations and to accepted social norms and traditions. Peace in this understanding is an individual and personal concept. When individuals talk about peace, it often appears as a category which looks into the future, it is a vision of the own life and the life of the community. Personal experiences are always part of it.

Nevertheless the idea that the peaceful development of a society and its politics is linked to specific components, which are global and therefore universal, can offer a path into a deeper understanding of concepts of peace.

Legitimacy as an indicator of peace?

Author: Friederike Stahlmann  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

Based on field research in Bamyan/Afghanistan, the paper discusses constructions of legitimacy concerning the administration of justice as an indicator of peace.

The now officially peaceful province of Bamyan, whose political order has been characterised by many regime changes as well as various violent local and regional conflicts in the last decades, provides a rich setting to question official categorisations of various forms of war and peace, and their construction through a qualitative analysis of their indicators. This paper will do so by tracing strands of legitimacy found in practices of dispute parties concering the current, pluralistic administration of dispute management, and their relation to past and current constellations of public power.

While legitimacy of the administration of justice is usually treated as a feature of peace, this analysis will challenge this assertion and hence one of the qualitative indicators used to draw lines between war and peace.

Shifting categories of victims and perpetrators in the politics of memory in Mexico

Author: Sylvia Karl (Philipps-University of Marburg)  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

The paper will focus on the shifting categorization processes within the post-conflict situation in Mexico in the context of the clarification of crimes against humanity, especially of enforced disappearance after the Dirty-War past of the 1970s. The present politics of memory in Mexico led to a dispute not only within the complex field of the perpetrators of past violence but also among different categories of victims of enforced disappearance, establishing new categories of victimized victims or victims that are now considered also symbolic perpetrators by other victims due to access to negotiation and power. The paper will discuss different aspects of re-categorization processes and how these lead to new conflicts within the so called transitional justice field.

Youth and identity during election time in Burundi

Author: Lidewyde Berckmoes (Leiden University)  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

This paper aims to explore how various identity categories lose or gain meaning and are employed in youth's daily lives before and during Burundi's 2010 elections.

From the international community's perspective the 2010 election process in Burundi is an important next step in Burundi's transition to a (stable) democracy at peace. For Burundians the elections provide momentum for a reassessment of existing and emerging social categories (including those based upon ethnicity, regionalism etcetera). Young people especially are challenged by their surroundings to rethink the definitions of friend and foe, winner and loser through such categories. How do young people deal with these challenges, and build upon, negotiate the meaning of, or create new identity categories?

The paper is based on ongoing fieldwork (2007, 2009, 2010) with youth in Bujumbura's northern quarters - a primary battle ground in the past war and (still) important backyard for politicians.

New Nepal? Encountering post-conflict

Author: Kathryn Hohman (SOAS)  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

Nepal: a word that conjures up images of snow-capped mountains and Himalayan culture - 'Shangri-La', a 'zone of peace', a country quietly living post-conflict. But for whom are these images circulated? And, for today’s discussion, for whom is the term 'post-conflict' useful? In this paper I will illustrate that the term 'post-conflict', and the political ideology surrounding it, borders on fallacy in Nepal, potentially damaging larger processes of social negotiation. What is 'post-conflict'? What defines it? What are its limits? Can we ever truly reach a pure state of 'post-conflict'? And, what gains appear once a state of 'post-conflict' is reached? Is 'post-conflict' merely part of the vocabulary mobilized in the process of modernization to 'remake' societies, to re-tell the (hi)story of the present?

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.