University of Pennsylvania Press

The Ethnography of Political Violence

Tobias Kelly, Series Editor

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

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The Ethnography of Political Violence

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Child Soldiers in Africa

By Alcinda Honwana

Young people have been at the forefront of political conflict in many parts of the world, even when it has turned violent. In some of those situations, for a variety of reasons, including coercion, poverty, or the seductive nature of violence, children become killers before they are able to grasp the fundamentals of morality. It has been only in the past ten years that this component of warfare has captured the attention of the world. Images of boys carrying guns and ammunition are now commonplace as they flash across television screens and appear on the front pages of newspapers. Less often, but equally disturbingly, stories of girls pressed into the service of militias surface in the media.

A major concern today is how to reverse the damage done to the thousands of children who have become not only victims but also agents of wartime atrocities. In Child Soldiers in Africa, Alcinda Honwana draws on her firsthand experience with children of Angola and Mozambique, as well as her study of the phenomenon for the United Nations and the Social Science Research Council, to shed light on how children are recruited, what they encounter, and how they come to terms with what they have done. Honwana looks at the role of local communities in healing and rebuilding the lives of these children. She also examines the efforts undertaken by international organizations to support these wartime casualties and enlightens the reader on the obstacles faced by such organizations.

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Citizens of an Empty Nation

Youth and State-Making in Postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina

By Azra Hromadžic

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Conscientious Objectors in Israel

Citizenship, Sacrifice, Trials of Fealty

By Erica Weiss

In Conscientious Objectors in Israel, Erica Weiss examines the lives of Israelis who have refused to perform military service for reasons of conscience. Based on long-term fieldwork, this ethnography chronicles the personal experiences of two generations of Jewish conscientious objectors as they grapple with the pressure of justifying their actions to the Israeli state and society—often suffering severe social and legal consequences, including imprisonment.

While most scholarly work has considered the causes of animosity and violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Conscientious Objectors in Israel examines how and under what circumstances one is able to refuse to commit acts of violence in the midst of that conflict. By exploring the social life of conscientious dissent, Weiss exposes the tension within liberal citizenship between the protection of individual rights and obligations of self-sacrifice. While conscience is a strong cultural claim, military refusal directly challenges Israeli state sovereignty. Weiss explores conscience as a political entity that sits precariously outside the jurisdictional bounds of state power. Through the lens of Israeli conscientious objection, Weiss looks at the nature of contemporary citizenship, examining how the expectations of sacrifice shape the politics of both consent and dissent. In doing so, she exposes the sacrificial logic of the modern nation-state and demonstrates how personal crises of conscience can play out on the geopolitical stage.

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Culture and PTSD

Trauma in Global and Historical Perspective

Edited by Devon E. Hinton and Byron J. Good

Since the 1970s, understanding of the effects of trauma, including flashbacks and withdrawal, has become widespread in the United States. As a result Americans can now claim that the phrase posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is familiar even if the American Psychiatric Association's criteria for diagnosis are not. As embedded as these ideas now are in the American mindset, however, they are more widely applicable, this volume attempts to show, than is generally recognized. The essays in Culture and PTSD trace how trauma and its effects vary across historical and cultural contexts.

Culture and PTSD examines the applicability of PTSD to other cultural contexts and details local responses to trauma and the extent they vary from PTSD as defined in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Investigating responses in Peru, Indonesia, Haiti, and Native American communities as well as among combat veterans, domestic abuse victims, and adolescents, contributors attempt to address whether PTSD symptoms are present and, if so, whether they are a salient part of local responses to trauma. Moreover, the authors explore other important aspects of the local presentation and experience of trauma-related disorder, whether the Western concept of PTSD is known to lay members of society, and how the introduction of PTSD shapes local understandings and the course of trauma-related disorders.

By attempting to determine whether treatments developed for those suffering PTSD in American and European contexts are effective in global settings of violence or disaster, Culture and PTSD questions the efficacy of international responses that focus on trauma.

Contributors: Carmela Alcántara, Tom Ball, James K. Boehnlein, Naomi Breslau, Whitney Duncan, Byron J. Good, Mary-Jo DelVecchio Good, Jesse H. Grayman, Bridget M. Haas, Devon E. Hinton, Erica James, Janis H. Jenkins, Hanna Kienzler, Brandon Kohrt, Roberto Lewis-Fernández, Richard J. McNally, Theresa D. O'Nell, Duncan Pedersen, Nawaraj Upadhaya, Carol M. Worthman, Allan Young

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Death Squad

The Anthropology of State Terror

Edited by Jeffrey A. Sluka

"There is real personal danger for anthropologists who dare to speak and write against terror; by doing so, they potentially and sometimes actually bring the terror down on themselves."—Jeffrey A. Sluka, from the Introduction

Death Squad is the first work to focus specifically on the anthropology of state terror. It brings together an international group of anthropologists who have done extensive research in areas marked by extreme forms of state violence and who have studied state terror from the perspective of victims and survivors.

The book presents eight case studies from seven countries—Spain, India (Punjab and Kashmir), Argentina, Guatemala, Northern Ireland, Indonesia, and the Philippines—to demonstrate the cultural complexities and ambiguities of terror when viewed at the local level and from the participants' point of view. Contributors deal with such topics as the role of Loyalist death squads in the culture of terror in Northern Ireland, the three-tier mechanism of state terror in Indonesia, the complex role of religion in violence by both the state and insurgents in Punjab and Kashmir, and the ways in which "disappearances" are used to destabilize and demoralize opponents of the state in Argentina, Guatemala, and India.

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El Salvador in the Aftermath of Peace

Crime, Uncertainty, and the Transition to Democracy

By Ellen Moodie

El Salvador's civil war, which left at least 75,000 people dead and displaced more than a million, ended in 1992. The accord between the government and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) has been lauded as a model post-Cold War peace agreement. But after the conflict stopped, crime rates shot up. The number of murder victims surpassed wartime death tolls. Those who once feared the police and the state became frustrated by their lack of action. Peace was not what Salvadorans had hoped it would be. Citizens began saying to each other, "It's worse than the war."

El Salvador in the Aftermath of Peace: Crime, Uncertainty, and the Transition to Democracy challenges the pronouncements of policy analysts and politicians by examining Salvadoran daily life as told by ordinary people who have limited influence or affluence. Anthropologist Ellen Moodie spent much of the decade after the war gathering crime stories from various neighborhoods in the capital city of San Salvador. True accounts of theft, assaults, and murders were shared across kitchen tables, on street corners, and in the news media. This postconflict storytelling reframed violent acts, rendering them as driven by common criminality rather than political ideology. Moodie shows how public dangers narrated in terms of private experience shaped a new interpretation of individual risk. These narratives of postwar violence—occurring at the intersection of self and other, citizen and state, the powerful and the powerless—offered ways of coping with uncertainty during a stunted transition to democracy.

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Everyday Nationalism

Women of the Hindu Right in India

By Kalyani Devaki Menon

Hindu nationalism has been responsible for acts of extreme violence against religious minorities and is a dominant force on the sociopolitical landscape of contemporary India. How does such a violent and exclusionary movement recruit supporters? How do members navigate the tensions between the normative prescriptions of such movements and competing ideologies?

To understand the expansionary power of Hindu nationalism, Kalyani Menon argues, it is critical to examine the everyday constructions of politics and ideology through which activists garner support at the grassroots level. Based on fieldwork with women in several Hindu nationalist organizations, Menon explores how these activists use gendered constructions of religion, history, national insecurity, and social responsibility to recruit individuals from a variety of backgrounds. As Hindu nationalism extends its reach to appeal to increasingly diverse groups, she explains, it is forced to acknowledge a multiplicity of positions within the movement. She argues that Hindu nationalism's willingness to accommodate dissonance is central to understanding the popularity of the movement.

Everyday Nationalism contends that the Hindu nationalist movement's power to attract and maintain constituencies with incongruous beliefs and practices is key to its growth. The book reveals that the movement's success is facilitated by its ability to become meaningful in people's daily lives, resonating with their constructions of the past, appealing to their fears in the present, presenting itself as the protector of the country's citizens, and inventing traditions through the use of Hindu texts, symbols, and rituals to unite people in a sense of belonging to a nation.

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Histories of Victimhood

Edited by Steffen Jensen and Henrik Ronsbo

The word and concept of victim bear a heavy weight. To represent oneself or to be represented as a victim is often a first and vital step toward having one's suffering and one's claims to rights socially and legally recognized. Yet to name oneself or be called a victim is a risky claim, and social scientists must struggle to avoid erasing either survivors' experience of suffering or their agency and resourcefulness. Histories of Victimhood engages with this dilemma, asking how one may recognize and acknowledge suffering without essentializing affected communities and individuals.

This volume tackles the theoretical and empirical questions surrounding the ways victims and victimhood are constructed, represented, and managed by state and nonstate actors. Geographically broad, the twelve essays in this volume trace histories of victimhood in Colombia, India, South Africa, Guatemala, Angola, Sierra Leone, Turkey, Occupied Palestine, Denmark, and Britain. They examine the implications of victimhood in a wide range of contexts, including violent occupations, displacement, war, reparation projects, refugee assistance, HIV treatment, trauma intervention, social welfare projects, and state formation. In exploring varying forms of hardship and identifying what people do to survive, how they make sense of their own suffering, and how they are frequently either acted upon or ignored by humanitarian agencies and states, Histories of Victimhood encourages us to see victimhood not as a definite and definable category of experience but as a changeable and culturally contingent state.

Contributors: Sofie Danneskiold-Samsøe, Pamila Gupta, Ravinder Kaur, Stine Finne Jakobsen, Andrew M. Jefferson, Steffen Jensen, Tobias Kelly, Frédéric Le Marcis, Walter Paniagua, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Darius Rejali, Henrik Ronsbo, Lotte Buch Segal, Nerina Weiss.

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In My Mother's House

Civil War in Sri Lanka

By Sharika Thiranagama. Foreword by Gananath Obeyesekere

In May 2009, the Sri Lankan army overwhelmed the last stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam—better known as the Tamil Tigers—officially bringing an end to nearly three decades of civil war. Although the war has ended, the place of minorities in Sri Lanka remains uncertain, not least because the lengthy conflict drove entire populations from their homes. The figures are jarring: for example, all of the roughly 80,000 Muslims in northern Sri Lanka were expelled from the Tamil Tiger-controlled north, and nearly half of all Sri Lankan Tamils were displaced during the course of the civil war.

Sharika Thiranagama's In My Mother's House provides ethnographic insight into two important groups of internally displaced people: northern Sri Lankan Tamils and Sri Lankan Muslims. Through detailed engagement with ordinary people struggling to find a home in the world, Thiranagama explores the dynamics within and between these two minority communities, describing how these relations were reshaped by violence, displacement, and authoritarianism. In doing so, she illuminates an often overlooked intraminority relationship and new social forms created through protracted war.

In My Mother's House revolves around three major themes: ideas of home in the midst of profound displacement; transformations of familial experience; and the impact of the political violence—carried out by both the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan state—on ordinary lives and public speech. Her rare focus on the effects and responses to LTTE political regulation and violence demonstrates that envisioning a peaceful future for post-conflict Sri Lanka requires taking stock of the new Tamil and Muslim identities forged by the civil war. These identities cannot simply be cast away with the end of the war but must be negotiated anew.

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Iraq at a Distance

What Anthropologists Can Teach Us About the War

Edited by Antonius C. G. M. Robben

The Iraq War has cost innumerable lives, caused vast material destruction, and inflicted suffering on millions of people. Iraq at a Distance: What Anthropology Can Teach Us About the War focuses on the plight of the Iraqi people, caught since 2003 in the carnage between U.S. and British troops on one side and, on the other, Iraqi insurgents, militias, and foreign al Qaeda operatives.

The volume is a bold attempt by six distinguished anthropologists to study a war zone too dangerous for fieldwork. They break new ground by using their ethnographic imagination as a research tool to analyze the Iraq War through insightful comparisons with previous and current armed conflicts in Cambodia, Israel, Palestine, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, and Argentina. This innovative approach extends the book's relevance beyond a critical understanding of the devastating war in Iraq. More and more parts of the world of long-standing ethnographic interest are becoming off-limits to researchers because of the war on terror. This book serves as a model for the study of other inaccessible regions, and it shows that the impossibility of conducting ethnographic fieldwork does not condemn anthropologists to silence.

Essays analyze the good-versus-evil framework of the war on terror, the deterioration of women's rights in Iraq under fundamentalist coercion, the ethnic-religious partitioning of Baghdad through the building of security walls, the excessive use of force against Iraqi civilians by U.S. counterinsurgency units, and the loss of popular support for U.S. and British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan after the brutal regimes of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein had been toppled.

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