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Anthropology of Conflict

Example image for the research topic Anthropology of Conflict
Foto: Lena Schick


Interest in the topic of conflict has been steadily gaining in importance in Anthropology since the 1980s. While the same can be said for other social sciences – which is underscored by the establishment of Peace and Conflict Studies as an independent  discipline -, the Anthropology of Conflict has its a specific disciplinary roots in Political Anthropology, Legal Anthropology, and the anthropological research tradition on conflict and warfare.

The Anthropology of Conflict views conflicts as embedded in broader socio-cultural dynamics. Without advancing normative claims, it aims at describing and understanding the cultural codes, social meanings, and transformative potential of conflicts. As part of a discipline with a tradition of studying the cultural Other, the Anthropology of Conflict is uniquely qualified to address the socio-cultural dimension of conflict, violence, and social difference that manifests itself in internal and external ethnic, national, or religious identifications.
With its characteristic bottom-up perspective on conflicts and its focus on people’s ideas and practices, the Anthropology of Conflict uncovers social phenomena that remain hidden from a purely etical macro-perspective. Thus, research at the Department focuses on the following topics: autonomous, local or indigenous strategies of fighting, avoiding or resolving conflict; the agency of allegedly powerless groups in terms of social protest or resistance; and frictions resulting from translocal processes at the intersection of global or national norms and local practices, including their socio-cultural expressions. Such research includes the analysis of transitional justice processes, the local impact of the War on Terror or the War on Drugs, as well as the study of popular symbolic expressions of violence.


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