EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010


Observing the 'bad guys': ethnographic approaches to non-state armed groups

Location JHT3
Date and Start Time 27 Aug, 2010 at 11:30


Stefan Khittel (University of Vienna) email
Alexander Horstmann (Tallinn University) email
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Long Abstract

The focus of ethnography used to be on the week, the victims, and not on powerful perpetrators. Today, the anthropology of the State and its armed forces has become an established genre within the discipline. At the same time, a certain nostalgia has impeded many anthropologists from studying left-wing radical armed groups, such as the Shining Path in Peru or the Communist Party of Thailand. Nevertheless, in the context of the Vietnam War, anthropologists were employed by the Central Intelligence Agency of the Unites States in order to provide information for counter-insurgency which started fervid discussions on the ethics of the discipline.

After 9/11, anthropologists were suddenly in demand to research the micro-cosmos of Islamic fundamentalist networks. Apart from the real danger of political instrumentalization, we see a genuine opportunity for anthropologists and anthropology as a discipline to shed light on the inner workings of Non-State Armed Groups. Non-State Armed Groups use the ideology of liberation and of suffering inflicted by oppressive states to legitimize the use of violence. In the name of nationalism, freedom and justice, these organizations exert extreme pressure and unleash their intense propaganda on the populations among which they recruit fighters. Torture, extralegal killings and other violations of international humanitarian law committed by these groups are often considered taboo by the local population, underreported by international media, and seem to go unnoticed by the anthropological community. At the same time, many of these organizations are widely supported by solidarity networks in Europe or in the Diaspora.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.


Dystopia revisited: the paramilitaries' vision of society in Colombia

Author: Stefan Khittel (University of Vienna)  email
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Long Abstract

The right-wing political project of the paramilitary forces in Colombia has received much attention because of the recent peace-process with the Colombian State. This process has been criticized by civil society organizations as well as political analysts on the grounds that the paramilitary groups had no political project, and had no visions of/for society and therefore were no legitimate partner for peace negotiations.

This paper approaches the paramilitary groups in MedellĂ­n, Colombia, ethnographically. What are the believes the rank and file are risking their lives for? Why did they join the group, stay with it and finally demobilize voluntarily? Are the reason merely economical in nature, as theories of entrepreneurs of wars would have it? Is the ideological discourse purely rhetorical? What about the visions for Colombian society, for themselves? What is their concrete relationship with the civilian population?

'Balls of fire' and other kinds of weapons: a look at the Haitian experience

Author: Ulrike Davis-Sulikowski (University of Vienna)  email
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Long Abstract

This contribution focuses on selected instances of non-state armed groups, their goals and modes of combat from present-day 'gangs', rebels and 'secte rouge' warriors to historic mercenaries and resistance fighters. Particularly in the case of Haiti this entails basically questioning the relation between the people and the state as an institution and the dialectics of sovereignity and external intervention between power and survival.

Heroes of yesterday, war criminals of today: the Serbian paramilitary units fifteen years after the armed conflict of former Yugoslavia

Author: Maria Vivod (UMR 7367 Strasbourg France)  email
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Long Abstract

The aim is to describe the transformation, primarily through the medias, of the image of the Serbian paramilitary unit members employed during the armed conflict of the 90es in the period of the decomposition of the former Yugoslavia. At the beginning, represented as 'heroes', 'saviors', 'protectors' of the 'serbianhood', ever present main figures of the public life - their public image has gone through a couple of change. Once they were the role models for the young generation, only after the fall of the regime (2000) their involvement in war crimes, mass rape, looting and genocide attained Serbia. Several landmark trials offered a glimpse into their role during the series of the conflicts. Once warlords, with a status of pop icons, the embodiment of mythical warriors and epic bandits, they are no more the living archetypes of collective remembrance, although their responsibility remain unquestionable for a part of the contemporary society.

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From jungle to village: changing insurgent strategies of violence in Southern Thailand

Author: Sascha Helbardt (University of Passau)  email
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Long Abstract

This contribution asks how BRN-Coordinate, the separatist group that is responsible for much of the violence in Southern Thailand, uses violence to pursue its aims against the Thai state. BRN-Coordinate shifted its ideological and military work from the jungle sites to the villages in Southern Thailand in order to cope with the overwhelming military force of the Thai state. It will be stressed that secrecy is one of the main working principles of the group, which has important consequences for the inner cohesion of the group as well as the relations to its social environment.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.