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Semester 1

War and Peace: Anthropological Perspectives (SCAN10089)


Social Anthropology





Normal Year Taken


Delivery Session Year



Visiting students must have at least 3 Anthropology courses at grade B or above. We will only consider University/College level courses.

Course Summary

This course provides students with an introduction to the anthropological study of War and Peace. The course explores how social anthropology can contribute to a critical understanding of the causes, characteristics, and effects of war and peace as features of the current global landscape. The focus is on what war is like for those caught up within it, rather than on battles, elite war strategies, and relations between states.

Course Description

This course examines anthropological approaches to the study of war and peace. We examine the spectacular and everyday violence of war in terms of structures of inequality, perceptions of difference, and the politics of representation. This involves examining the moral, legal and political particularity of war as a distinct form of violence, as well as the relationship between war and peace. We will also look at efforts that have been made to prevent war, particularly at the local level, and the social and cultural implications of the aftermath of war. Indicative questions this course addresses may include: How is a society mobilized for war? How are societies changed, in the short and long term, by war? What, if anything, does human nature have to do with warfare? Who is most likely to die and kill in wartime? What distinguishes "war", other forms of violence and "peace"? What kinds of global and local anti-war movements have there been, and have they been effective? What can we learn about war and peace using anthropological methods? Indicative topics to be covered include: militarism; trauma and injury; atrocity and the intimacy of violence; accountability and criminal justice; peace movements; grief and commemoration, humanitarian intervention; and veterans. This course will be delivered through a 2 hour seminar that will combine lecture and student discussion. Seminar and lecture will centre on set readings. The course will expose students to multiple ethnographic accounts of war. It will also draw upon literature from related disciplines, including history, politics, sociology, law and literature. Case studies will be drawn from different parts if the world. Films, visual art, and music will be used to complement the readings. Students will be asked to approach these latter materials with an "ethnographic eye" to practice their ethnographic argumentation. Students will engage with these different sources in a critical, rigorous and comparative manner, developing their understanding of the potentials and limits of anthropological forms of analysis and evidence in relation to questions of war.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 0%, Coursework 100%, Practical Exam 0%

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