Anthropology of Violence and Conflict - SE820

Sorry, this module is not currently running in 2019-20.







The aim of this module is to introduce students to the relevance of anthropological debates to contemporary political issues, specifically in relation to one of the most pertinent and persistent phenomena of the 20th century: violent conflict and war. Students will gain a first hand insight into one of anthropology's main contributions: the way that small-scale issues can be related to much broader and perhaps universal questions about human nature, violence, poverty and inequality. Even though this module will focus on anthropological approaches to violence and conflict, it will also draw on discussions from other disciplines (such as philosophy and political theory), such as human nature, war and genocide, legitimacy and the state. Other topics that will be covered include memory, gender, subjectivity, structural violence, reconstruction and reconciliation, as well as anthropological approaches to peace, emotions and human suffering. In addition, by discussing the ethics of doing research in conflict situations, this module will allow students to critically engage with the challenges, dilemmas and limitations of anthropological research methods. The module is designed in a way that it encourages students to engage with current affairs and to get first insights into how anthropology can contribute to our understanding of political, social and historical events.


This module appears in:

Contact hours



Autumn Term

Method of assessment

Assessment is by 100% coursework. The coursework component comprises two essays: one shorter essay (1,500 words), for 30%, a second essay based on a research project (50%), and an oral presentation (20%). The oral presentation will be a group presentation of 30 minutes; students will be asked to discuss how different anthropological ideas help to understand situations of conflict. The exact theme will have to be agreed with the module convener. This theme will be further discussed in a written format in the extended essay (3,500 words), in which students will focus on one case of conflict or war in the 20th century, discussing major theoretical debates in relation to violence and conflict in relation to it

Indicative reading

Das, Veena, Arthur Kleinman, Margaret Lock, Mamphela Ramphele & Pamela Reynolds. 2001. Remaking a World: Violence, Social Suffering, and Recovery. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press.
Farmer, Paul. 2003. Pathologies of Power. Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press.
Howell, Signe and Roy Wills. 1989. Societies at Peace: Anthropological Perspectives. London: Routledge.
Kiernan, Ben. 2007. Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur. Yale University Press.
Kwon, Heonik. 2008. Ghosts of War in Vietnam, Studies in the Social and Cultural History of Modern Warfare, No. 27. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Navaro-Yashin, Yael. 2012. The Make-Believe Space: Affective Geography in a Postwar Polity. Duke University Press.

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1 Have a systematic understanding of knowledge and critical awareness of the major theoretical positions taken in contemporary Social Anthropology.
2 Be able to discuss critically the evidence supporting competing anthropological theories and deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively.
3 Be able to connect the way anthropological debates relate to current affairs, including political, social and economic developments and historical events and thereby develop independent learning skills.
4 Have a comprehensive understanding of the historical development of anthropological ideas in the 20th century, specifically with regard to the literature on violence
5 Have cultivated an in-depth understanding of the recognised topic in anthropology of violence and conflict and the related fields of power and politics, the nation-state, anthropological approaches to memory and emotions, gender, war and ethics.
6 Be able to construct coherent and logical arguments, particularly in written form, which combine general theoretical writings with discussion of ethnographic data.
7 Be able to plan a small research project that connects anthropological debates to broader social issues and current events.
8 Be able to present their findings in an oral presentation and work with other students in order to develop their ideas thereby demonstrating self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems.

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