EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(Plenary A)

Anthropology of warfare, peace and reconciliation

Location John Hume Lecture Theatres 1, 2, 3 and 4
Date and Start Time 25 Aug, 2010 at 09:00


Abdullahi El-Tom (NUIM) email
Wendy James (University of Oxford) email
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Long Abstract

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.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.


From war to peace and reconciliation in Darfur, Sudan

Author: Abdullahi El-Tom (NUIM)  email
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Long Abstract

The paper outlines possible engagement of anthropology in the daunting task of post-war peace and reconciliation. Using material from Darfur and drawing on other cultures with similar experiences, the paper agues that imaginative use of traditional Institutions can provide a solid base for peaceful co-existence in post-conflict societies. In particular, the paper debates Darfur’s institution of Judia (Traditional Mediation Council) and explores options of its transformation for the purpose of use in dealing with crimes committed during the conflict. The paper provides a scope for raising theoretical issues relevant to the study of warfare and violence, peace and reconciliation, traditional legal systems, human rights and international laws.

War as rite: anthropological theory and its application

Author: Paul Richards (Njala University, Sierra Leone)  email
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Long 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.

Long-term perspectives vs. 'fieldwork under fire'?

Author: Wendy James (University of Oxford)  email
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Long Abstract

Do we have to 'be there' to study crises? While fieldwork in war zones is obviously valuable, analysis itself has to be done at a distance. We have accepted the need for 'multi-sited' approaches in our research, and I argue here that we also need to take into account multiple long-term perspectives to understand any 'emergency' situation. I have been able to revisit the Sudan-Ethiopian borderlands intermittently over many years, and to have seen - though at a comfortable distance - the recurring ways that people are drawn into civil wars. My direct field experience has been complemented by archival work and conversations with people far from the sites of conflict, sometimes twenty years after the event. I will draw attention to the work of anthropologists in various parts of the world who are also showing how vital 'longitudinal' studies can be as a part of our approach to 'crisis'.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.