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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Security and Suspicion

An Ethnography of Everyday Life in Israel

By Juliana Ochs

In Israel, gates, fences, and walls encircle public spaces while guards scrutinize, inspect, and interrogate. With a population constantly aware of the possibility of suicide bombings, Israel is defined by its culture of security. Security and Suspicion is a closely drawn ethnographic study of the way Israeli Jews experience security in their everyday lives.

Observing security concerns through an anthropological lens, Juliana Ochs investigates the relationship between perceptions of danger and the political strategies of the state. Ochs argues that everyday security practices create exceptional states of civilian alertness that perpetuate—rather than mitigate—national fear and ongoing violence. In Israeli cities, customers entering gated urban cafes open their handbags for armed security guards and parents circumnavigate feared neighborhoods to deliver their children safely to school. Suspicious objects appear to be everywhere, as Israelis internalize the state's vigilance for signs of potential suicide bombers. Fear and suspicion not only permeate political rhetoric, writes Ochs, but also condition how people see, the way they move, and the way they relate to Palestinians. Ochs reveals that in Israel everyday practices of security—in the home, on commutes to work, or in cafés and restaurants—are as much a part of conflict as soldiers and military checkpoints.

Based on intensive fieldwork in Israel during the second intifada, Security and Suspicion charts a new approach to issues of security while contributing to our understanding of the subtle dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This book offers a way to understand why security propagates the very fears and suspicions it is supposed to reduce.

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Unraveling Somalia

Race, Class, and the Legacy of Slavery

By Catherine Besteman

In 1991 the Somali state collapsed. Once heralded as the only true nation-state in Africa, the Somalia of the 1990s suffered brutal internecine warfare. At the same time a politically created famine caused the deaths of a half a million people and the flight of a million refugees.

During the civil war, scholarly and popular analyses explained Somalia's disintegration as the result of ancestral hatreds played out in warfare between various clans and subclans. In Unraveling Somalia, Catherine Besteman challenges this view and argues that the actual pattern of violence—inflicted disproportionately on rural southerners—contradicts the prevailing model of ethnic homogeneity and clan opposition. She contends that the dissolution of the Somali nation-state can be understood only by recognizing that over the past century and a half there emerged in Somalia a social order based on principles other than simple clan organization—a social order deeply stratified on the basis of race, status, class, region, and language.

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War and Slavery in Sudan

By Jok Madut Jok

Slavery has been endemic in Sudan for thousands of years. Today the Sudanese slave trade persists as a complex network of buyers, sellers, and middlemen that operates most actively when times are favorable to the practice. As Jok Madut Jok argues, the present day is one such time, as the Sudanese civil war that resumed in 1983 rages on between the Arab north and the black south. Permitted and even encouraged by the Arab-dominated Khartoum government, the state military has captured countless women and children from the south and sold them into slavery in the north to become concubines, domestic servants, farm laborers, or even soldiers trained to fight against their own people. Also instigated by the Khartoum government, Arab herding groups routinely take and sell the Nilotic peoples of Dinka and Nuer.

Jok emphasizes that the contemporary practice of slavery in Sudan is not the result of two decades of civil war, as conventional wisdom in the media would have one believe. Instead he revisits the historic hostilities between the Islamic world to the north and, to the south, the Black African peoples, many of whom are Christian converts.

For Arab traders "the nation of the blacks," or Bilad Al-Sudan, has traditionally been the source of slaves. When the slave trade developed into corporate enterprise in the nineteenth century, the slave-takers articulated distinctions based on race, ethnicity, and religion that marked the black, infidel southerners as indisputably inferior and therefore "natural" slaves. Such distinctions have survived for decades and have fueled various forms of oppression of the black south, even during those periods when slavery has not been authorized by the government. When it is authorized, as it is today, slavery then becomes the extreme form of this systemic oppression.

War and Slavery in Sudan exposes the enslavement of black peoples in Sudan which has been exacerbated, if not caused, by the circumstance of war. As a black southerner and a member of the Dinka, a group targeted by Arab slave traders, Jok brings an insider's perspective to this highly volatile subject matter. He describes the various methods of capture, explores the heinous experience of captivity, and examines the efforts of slaves to escape. Jok also assesses the efforts of Dinka communities to locate and redeem, or buy back, slaves through middlemen, a strategy that has been supported by Western antislavery groups and church-based humanitarian agencies but has also been the subject of great moral debate. Throughout the book, Jok stresses that the search for settlement of the north-south conflict must be made in conjunction with a campaign to end slavery. He challenges the international community to move beyond diplomatic measures to take more coordinated action against the slave trade and bring liberation to the people of Sudan.

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