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An Anthropology of War

An Anthropology of War: Views from the Frontline

Edited by Alisse Waterston
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 204
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  • Book Info
    An Anthropology of War
    Book Description:

    As we move deeper into the twenty-first century, power, lethal force, and injustice continue to explode violently into war, and the prospects for lasting peace look even bleaker. The horrors of modern warfare - the death, dehumanization, and destruction of social and material infrastructures - have done little to bring an end to armed conflict.

    In this volume, leading chroniclers of war provide thoughtful and powerful essays that reflect on their ethnographic work at the frontlines. The contributors recount not only what they have seen and heard in war zones but also what is being read, studied, analyzed and remembered in such diverse locations as Colombia and Guatemala, Israel and Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Haiti. In detailed reports from the field, they reflect on the important issue of "accountability" and offer explanations to discern causes, patterns, and practices of war. Through this unique lens, the contributors provide the insight and analysis needed for a deeper understanding of one of the greatest issues of our times.

    Contributors:Avram Bornstein, Paul E. Farmer, R. Brian Ferguson, Lesley Gill, Beatriz Manz, Carolyn Nordstrom, Stephen Reyna, Jose N. Vasquez

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-522-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Alisse Waterston
  4. Prelude: An Accountability, Written in the Year 2109
    (pp. 1-11)
    Carolyn Nordstrom

    Thus beginsAn Accountability, written in the year 2109. It stands as an archaeology of the future and a reflexivity that ponders how we, as scholars and anthropologists, will be read—and judged—by future history.¹

    For much of the first decade of the fledgling twenty-first century, anthropologists in the United States have been producing academic scholarship while at war. With Iraq, certainly. With each other, undeniably. With themselves, perhaps. With lethal inequalities, hopefully. What intellectual and moral bearings animate the heartbeat of their epistemologies as they ripple across and interact to configure, in however large or small a way,...

  5. Introduction: On War and Accountability
    (pp. 12-31)
    Alisse Waterston

    The 1967 volume,War, edited by Morton Fried, Marvin Harris, and Robert Murphy, grew out of an “unprecedented plenary symposium” of the 66th annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. The symposium was held, according to the authors, because one year earlier, 350 anthropologists attending the association’s annual meeting had signed a petition declaring their “widely shared sentiment that anthropologists have both a moral and professional concern for the effects of war on the human species.” The petition called for organized symposia to take place the next year that would counter the fact that only a “miniscule portion of the...

  6. Chapter 1 Ten Points on War
    (pp. 32-49)
    R. Brian Ferguson

    Over the past 40 years, the anthropology of war has grown from a few scattered works to an enormous field with many areas of investigation and contention. While it used to be possible to read practically everything that came out on the subject, this is no longer the case, and the field is in danger of falling apart into several self-contained realms. I began studying war as a graduate student in 1974, and this chapter is a synthesis of my own subsequent work, boiled down to 10 major, interrelated points.¹ I will not discuss case examples from around the world,...

  7. Chapter 2 Global Warring Today: “Maybe Somebody Needs to Explain”
    (pp. 50-70)
    Stephen Reyna

    It should be clear—spectacularly so—that since 9/11 the US government has brought ‘shock and awe’ through direct or indirect military operations in an arc from Afghanistan to Iraq to Lebanon. Indeed, some go further and assert that the US is engaged in World War IV (the Cold War being World War III) (Cohen 2001; Podhoretz 2002; Woolsey in Feldman and Wilson 2003). Why? Perhaps an answer to this question could be had from President Bush, the person directing this violence. But unfortunately, the president is “the Commander—see,” so he does not need to explain, although he acknowledges,...

  8. Chapter 3 Global Fractures
    (pp. 71-86)
    Carolyn Nordstrom

    Crisis. This investigation starts with a specific incident of political violence and then follows the complex layers of associations making this event possible that move, quite literally, across the globe. To summarize this point, and this chapter: Does a crisis—say, political violence—extend across the borders of sovereignty and temporality to flow into the personal lives, economic markets, and political systems of the world across war and peace? Does this then represent crises on all these global levels? And to what result?

    People don’t want to look at the big picture, because they are opening Pandora’s box. What happens...

  9. Chapter 4 Seeing Green: Visual Technology, Virtual Reality, and the Experience of War
    (pp. 87-105)
    Jose N. Vasquez

    There was a time in the history of warfare when nightfall meant the end of fighting for the day. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, several techniques for overcoming darkness during combat maneuvers were developed, including illumination of the battlefield with flares or searchlights as well as forecasting nighttime visibility provided by ambient light from the moon, stars, or surrounding light sources. These techniques were useful but usually offered equal benefits to both sides of the battle. Recent advances in visual technology are giving modern warriors a competitive edge over less technologically advanced opponents and changing the experience of war...

  10. Chapter 5 Military Occupation as Carceral Society: Prisons, Checkpoints, and Walls in the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle
    (pp. 106-130)
    Avram Bornstein

    The Israeli Army has maintained an unwelcome military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for over 40 years. During this time, an increasing carceralization of society has occurred, most evident in three architectural forms: prisons, checkpoints, and walls. These three forms and their accompanying practices of social control, which have been refined and developed, are purportedly intended to prevent Palestinian violence against Israelis. But carceralization has had more insidious outcomes: dividing Palestinians, confiscating their land, destroying their livelihoods, and, thus, giving rise to some submission (collaboration with occupiers or emigration) but mostly to resistance (ranging from non-cooperation to...

  11. Chapter 6 War and Peace in Colombia
    (pp. 131-150)
    Lesley Gill

    Most US citizens experienced the Cold War as ‘peace’. Firefights never disrupted their communities. Neighbors and family members did not disappear and then return as mutilated corpses in highly visible public places. Muffled voices never relayed death threats over the telephone in the middle of the night. The Cold War touched most American lives only indirectly through the evening news, where televised images of the carnage in Vietnam (1964–1975), massacred Nicaraguans during the war against the Somoza dictatorship (1975–1979), or murdered Jesuit priests in El Salvador (1989) signaled a distant crisis. Yet for the Vietnamese, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, and...

  12. Chapter 7 The Continuum of Violence in Post-war Guatemala
    (pp. 151-164)
    Beatriz Manz

    State violence in Guatemala reached genocidal proportions in the 1980s. The most targeted populations were rural Mayan communities. While officially peace was achieved at the end of 1996, everyday violence has reached epidemic proportions. This chapter reflects on the violence continuum and the social devastation it has wrought. The violence is rooted in a society that historically has been deeply divided along ethnic and rigid class lines and that has been fundamentally unjust, discriminatory, and abusive toward the oppressed population. The challenge then is much greater, and the likelihood of continued violence that much more likely, when the underlying grievances...

  13. Chapter 8 Mother Courage and the Future of War
    (pp. 165-184)
    Paul E. Farmer

    War is good for something or someone, or it would not have persisted for millennia as a major staple of human interaction. “That war pays,” notes Alisse Waterston in introducing this volume, “is an old saw.” But what are the wages of war? Whom does it pay, and who pays for it? How does it pay? Most importantly, what are the real costs of war and conflict?

    My guess is that Bertolt Brecht wrote his famous play in order to ask and answer some of these questions. And the answers are revealed, over time, to his unlikely protagonist, a Swedish...

  14. Index
    (pp. 185-192)