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Este Blogue é um estudo da Associação Projecto Raia Alentejana e tem como objectivo a discussão da violência em geral e da guerra na Pré-História em particular. A Arqueologia da Península Ibérica tem aqui especial relevo. Esperamos cruzar dados de diferentes campos do conhecimento com destaque para a Antropologia Social. As críticas construtivas são bem vindas neste espaço, que se espera, de conhecimento.

Guerra Primitiva\Pré-Histórica
Violência interpessoal colectiva entre duas ou mais comunidades políticas distintas, com o uso de armas tendo como objectivo causar fatalidades, por um motivo colectivo sem hipótese de compensação.


Friday, 10 September 2010

A History of Research on Warfare in Anthropology - Reply to Keith Otterbein.

Neil L. Whitehead
American Anthropologist 102(4):834-837

Keith Otterbein [AA 101,4] is to be congratulated for having initiated a much needed debate about the history of anthropological thinking on warfare and violence and for having provided a number of suggestions as to how we should understand the origins of such research. However, the purpose of this reply is to illustrate that there are a number of intellectual factors and some important published materials which Otterbein has overlooked and which critically affect the significance of the issues he discusses. In short his view of anthropological research on warfare is overly narrow and in particular excludes some widely read and debated works.
As a preliminary to a discussion of that research and its relevance to Otterbein=s arguments I should declare my own interest, both as a theorist alluded to by Otterbein, but also as a researcher in the anthropology of warfare since the 1980's who therefore might function, as Otterbein suggests [795], as an Ainformant@ as to the development of the field. In particular Otterbein is quite wrong to suppose that only the writing of Bruce Bower Ahas brought anthropological research on violence and war to the attention of the general public@ [794]. The volume I edited with my colleague Brian Ferguson War in the Tribal Zone has just gone to a second edition (1999) and in the new Preface we discuss in greater depth than is possible here a number of new lines of research that have opened up over the last decade as well as the impact of the Tribal Zone model in anthropology and related disciplines.
The original volume (1992) was reviewed very widely indeed and many of its central findings were communicated in both the newspaper media (see Whitehead & Ferguson 1993, Dallas Morning News - 11/29/93 , Baltimore Sun - 5/14/93, Wisconsin State Journal - 11/7/93) as well as other media forums, such as the Council for the Advancement of Science Writers. The point here being not to inflate the importance of that volume, merely to suggest that there are many more avenues between anthropology and the public than Otterbein allows. The same also may be said of the work of a number of a scholars working on violence and warfare, particularly Nancy Scheper-Hughes (1992 ), Bruce Kapferer (1988), Renato Rosaldo (1980), James Scott (1990) and Michael Taussig (1986).
In fact the work of the above scholars is but a small sample of the anthropological research on warfare and violence that Otterbein has overlooked. The practice of warfare is highly Aembedded@ in social-cultural systems and as such may permeate many other aspects of life. As a result it seems obvious that we also should be considering the literature on the cultural meaning of war and killing, as much as the materials on the political dynamics, economic consequences and sociological organization of raiding. Violence, such as head-hunting (George 1996, Hendricks 1993, Hoskins 1996, Taylor 1999) cannibalism (Basso 1995, Conklin 1995, Darling 1999, Viveiros de Castro 1992, Whitehead 1997, Zheng 1996), torture (Abler 1992, Clastres 1977, Sanday 1986), rape (Allen 1996, Das 1990) mutilation (Taylor 1999, Trexler 1995, Whitehead 1998b) and so forth, although not necessarily part of the immediate context of combat, is clearly, in the minds of its practitioners and victims, indissolubly linked to the practice of what we discern as Awarfare@ and as such a key area for the anthropological investigation of war. Moreover, such Atraditional@ forms of violence seem to be currently resurgent in various ethnic conflicts, and therefore the issues of how violence might mediate modernity and how that modernity is connected to intensifying globalization of cultural communication are themselves significant topics for study (Appadurai 1996, Geschiere 1997, Lan 1985, Strathern 1999, White 2000).
In consequence the limited notion of warfare that Otterbein employs affects the usefulness of the historical overview of anthropological research that he proposes. Certainly, any attempt at historical periodization is open to critique and although one might quibble with Otterbein=s characterization of the various periods of research in warfare I would certainly agree with his broader aim of countering Lawrence Keeley=s (1996) peculiar view of the discipline. Moreover, Otterbein=s point [794] that research on warfare reflects the wider cultural trends of the societies in which anthropology is practiced is well taken. However, Keeley is hardly the originator of a framework which counter poses Amyths@ of peaceful savagery against those of savage savagery, nor does it first appear in the nineteenth century, as Otterbein suggests [796]. Indeed, as Keeley recognizes, this ideological debate has its origins in the Enlightenment and earlier. The Leviathan of Thomas Hobbes (1656) and the Social Contract of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1976) have come to perfectly exemplify the competing frameworks through which Western cultures have viewed violence; that is as either expressive of a human propensity for a Anasty, brutish and short@ lifestyle in the context of a Awar of all men against all men@(Hobbes), or the tragedy of a lost Asavagery@ that was untutored in the arts of violent conflict before the advent of the modern (Rousseau). The way Otterbein connects anthropological research to wider public issues is quite appropriate but he fails to recognize the deep historical origins and ideological trappings to this debate. As a result Otterbein=s historical search for the origins of the Amyth of the peaceful savage@ amongst work of the 1930's to 1960's that tended to romanticize Atheir people@ [797] is misplaced - this debate is much, much older than that.
This limited historical horizon for the emergence of anthropological categories tends also to ignore the historicity of the practice of warfare itself. Otterbein discusses [797] the reports of apparently peaceful groups who nonetheless had traditions or Aembarrassing@ instances of violent behavior and suggests that an emergent Amyth of the peaceful savage@ effectively encouraged ethnographers to ignore or downplay violence amongst the peoples they studied. But rather than impugn those ethnographers perhaps we should consider whether the suppressed presence of violence was directly connected to the pacification campaigns of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This would certainly be predicted, using the Tribal Zone model, as an aspect of encapsulation, and Bodley (1990) has clearly shown the prevalence of this kind of effect on indigenous warfare and violence through his case studies of the consequences of the extension of colonial administration into the last areas of autonomous tribal territories. The apparent ambiguity of the ethnographer towards the presence or absence of warfare and violence may actually reflect the ambiguous presence of violence amongst relatively recently Apacified@ peoples. The case of the Tiwi that Otterbein [799] discusses at length seems particularly ripe for reinterpretation along these lines, as Otterbein seems to appreciate [798]. This does not mean that we can ignore issues of how anthropologists represent the people they study [797] and decisions to emphasize certain kinds of violent behaviors, or not, rather than disputes of Afact@ are surely behind the kinds of controversy that have engulfed the ethnography of certain groups, such as the Yanomamo (Whitehead 1998b).
Otterbein [798] proposes, correctly I think, that the Aecological paradigm@ for explaining warfare supplanted other kinds of rationalization of deadly violence and that the issue of Apeacefulness versus bellicosity@ was then recast as Afunctionality versus dysfunctionality@. Apart from the obvious problems of historicizing any functionalist explanation it certainly was an important advance in understanding to re-cast the debate in a way which emphasized the Aembedded@ nature of that putative functionality, or indeed dysfunctionality. In which case, rather than see attempts to historicize @primitive@ warfare as attempts to deny the reality or presence of violence [799-800], we need to appreciate that there really was a Amilitary horizon@ (Turney-High 1991:21-38) in which the forms and rituals of Western warfare became globalized through the colonial process. I have no interest in Adenying@ that other war complexes could produce a significant number of deaths, even those societies organized on a relatively small scale, but it is important to realize that ideas of total and overwhelming victory, which have been a desiredata of Western military leaderships for over 2,000 years, are the source of that disjuncture between the Western way of war and almost all other cultural practices of conflict and killing (Hanson 1989, Keegan 1993). That non-Western cultures may assimilate to, or be annihilated by, encounter with the Western way of war is the key point made in the volume War in the Tribal Zone, but this is not intended to obscure the fact that human cultural variety allows for other purposes to combat which may well be mistakenly interpreted as a hesitant militarism or even peacefulness. For all these reasons Agenocidal warfare@ [800] is indeed organizationally and ideologically the privilege of state-systems.
These lacunae in Otterbein=s argumentation thus lead to a rather inadequate account of anthropological research since 1980. The supposed recurrence of past theories [800] - innate aggression hypotheses, diffusion-acculturation models and cultural evolution - is only plausible on the basis of an inadequate characterization of the debate. While the latest version of the Akiller ape@ (Ardrey 1966) hypothesis (Wrangham & Peterson 1997) does indeed presage a return to the socio-biology of the 1970's, Otterbein has made a clear error of interpretation in his reading of War in the Tribal Zone. It is not a diffusionist hypothesis simply because it does not claim that warfare originates with colonial encounter but rather that it may be intensified and redirected to new goals. We also suggest that Western modes of warfare are themselves altered in many respects by the experience of colonial combat. In other words this is not diffusion from a center but a mimetic and dialectic process played out on the edge of expansive colonial systems, as well as within collapsing imperial regimes (Ferguson & Whitehead 1999).
By the same token Otterbein=s [801] avian metaphor to describe various authors as falling into either the camp of the AHawks@ or ADoves@ crudely erases important distinctions and overlooks other commonalities amongst these authors. For example, although John Keegan is characterized as a AHawk@ it would be fair to suggest that it was he who made the first contribution to a more culturally grounded, humanistic, account of warfare in his classic The Face of Battle (1976) which focused on the experience of combat through the eyes of ordinary soldiers. Moreover, although I am depicted as a ADove@ Otterbein might care to consult A History of Warfare (1993: xi) where Keegan generously acknowledges our extensive discussions as being important in forming his view of the anthropological literature. In short the field is more complex than Otterbein allows and those anthropological materials ignored by Otterbein do not fit easily into his scheme of historiography. Although Otterbein briefly alludes to the work of Carolyn Nordstrom and Antonius Robben (1995) he completely overlooks the wider literature on the cultural production of warfare and violence (see also Daniel 1996, Hinton 1998, Malkki 1995, van der Port 1999). Such work broadly addresses key aspects of human violence that need to be integrated with the kinds of materials Otterbein does discuss.
Cultural systems of classification and practice are key to how acts of violence are committed; for an act of violence is a cultural performance. Violent performance discursively amplifies and extends the cultural force of violent acts so that violent acts themselves can generate a shared idiom of meaning for violent death that enfold both killer and killed. As a result of this the way in which persons are killed or mutilated is not arbitrary, haphazard, or simply a function of perceived instrumentality. The manner of killing and injury may be used to delineate ethnic difference and identity, to construct ideas of sexuality, or to assert of ideas of tradition and modernity (Appadurai 1996, Bataille 1986, Kakar 1996, Tambiah 1986, Trexler 1995). Therefore, while it is evident that the cultural meanings of violent acts vary cross-culturally and historically, it is far from clear how that variation affects the representation of others, how it affects the form of violent acts, or the ways in which violence itself might define cultural practice. It is these kinds of question that much of the recent anthropological literature is interested in answering - and that literature should have been part of Otterbein=s review.
References
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Van der Port, Mattijs

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