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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.


Thursday, 24 March 2011

War in the Tribal Zone: Expanding States and Indigenous Warfare. Edited by R. Brian Ferguson and Neil L. Whitehead. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 1992.

Review from American Indian Culture and Research Journal 17:2(1993):239-245.
Thomas D. Hall
DePauw University
HTML version October 26, 1998

The catchy title of this collection will grab the attention of scholars interested in Indian-White relations, but the subtitle could deter those who expect either a dry theoretical treatise or another round of quincentenary-inspired European-bashing. That would be truly unfortunate, because this collection has much to offer. Fundamentally, all the authors address the general question of the roles and consequences of warfare in contact between states and "tribal" peoples. The answer is at once simple and complex: simple because warfare increases; complex because the increase varies considerably with specific conditions of each encounter. Almost universally, the level of warfare between the invading state (almost always an invasion from the tribal perspective) and tribal peoples increases. No surprise here. Almost as universally, warfare among tribal peoples increases precipitously. Again, this is not much of a surprise. What is surprising is that this pattern holds for ancient Rome, ancient Sri Lanka, seventeenth century Africa, contemporary New Guinea, and all over North and South America. In short, what is well known for the European-Indian encounter in the Americas is in fact a generic pattern of state-tribe encounters.

This collection is a result of a conference on warfare sponsored by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation held at the School of American Research in 1989. The conference was held to focus attention on the roles of state expansion on warfare and to conceptualize the study of tribe-state warfare in ways that would encourage further research. The results are summarized in an the important first chapter by Ferguson and Whitehead and a brief set of diagrams in an appendix. These, however, are best addressed after surveying the substantive reports contained in the volume.

According to D. J. Mattingly, Berber tribal structure in North Africa during Roman times remains poorly understood. Still, transhumant peoples (those who follow a more-or-less prescribed circuits) were relatively easily to control because of predictable travel patterns. Once local elites were absorbed into the Roman world, they shed their tribal affiliations relatively easily. This kind of indirect rule was generally quite efficient. Roman policy oscillated between territorial expansion and hegemonic control of tribal peoples beyond the border (approximately between direct and indirect rule). Shifts in strategy were often determined by local considerations, such as relative costs and benefits of military expansion versus costs of tribute to buy influence, as opposed to imperial concerns of the center. Roman borders "were filters, designed to facilitate observation and supervision of movement between the territorial and hegemonic zones" (pg. 56). They were almost never used as absolute barriers. While Roman attempts to assimilate North African tribes ultimately failed (for reasons Mattingly does not discuss), Roman policy was relatively successful in the first two centuries of the Christian era.

R. Gunawardana shows that tribal peoples survived sustained conflict with ancient Sri Lankan states, yet maintained their tribal identities. Sri Lankan differences, he argues, are significantly different from European experiences with tribal peoples. He also indicates that withdrawal from a territory by tribal peoples has different motives, depending on circumstances. When a state is trying achieve hegemony over a people, withdrawal constitutes a denial of hegemony. However, when a state is seeking territorial expansion withdrawal constitutes a cessation of territory. Trade and ideology play important roles in his account. Trade can inspire warfare in attempts to seize resources, or to acquire access to them, or to control strategic transportation nodes. These correspond, approximately to plunder, hegemonic control, and territorial expansion. Plunder could take the form of material goods, unutilized tribal resources, or captives. Sometimes alliances were formed in which tribal people retained autonomy in exchange for serving as military units in the state's army, becoming in essence, "ethnic soldiers." State control often took the form of ideological, specifically, religious imperialism. This presented an especially thorny doctrinal problem for Buddhism which stressed nonviolence.

Ross Hassig compares the relations of Aztecs and Spaniards to tribal peoples. For the Aztecs the lack of wheeled vehicles slowed expansion, but did not stop it completely. Again there is an oscillation between territorial and hegemonic strategies. Expansion creates its own resistance by spreading state military technology and political organization and through a rather steep decline in effectiveness with distance. While expansion brought many useful products to the Aztecs it also stimulated a demand for Aztec "gifts." Thus, trade had impacts considerably beyond direct conquest and warfare. Here religious conflict and change was not a cause of war, but a consequence. Rather, expansion was fueled, at least in part, by specifics of Aztec social mobility through expanding marriage alliances, primarily with conquered or absorbed elites.

Spanish conquest differed considerably. Spaniards tried to monopolize new technologies (horses and guns, the latter more successfully) and were not interested in hegemony but centralized administrative control. Spanish warfare used local auxiliaries extensively and sought resources including labor of conquered peoples. They tended to displace nomadic tribal peoples who were not suitable for plantation labor, or to convert them to sedentary peasants through the efforts of religious missionaries.

Robin Law traces the complex changes in warfare in Dahomey, West Africa in the slave trade. He reviews the roles of trading inferior guns to induce dependency on Europeans, and hence a steady flow of captives for the slave trade. Even so, the introduction of guns greatly transformed warfare from mass armies to the use of armed elite forces. Warfare also led to replacement of a kin-based political system with one that was territorially based. He further notes how the slave trade created subimperialism: "While Dahomey at one level constituted a part of the West African periphery of the European-dominated trans-Atlantic trading system, it had its own periphery in the form of the neighboring peoples it raided for slaves" (pg. 124). Thus warfare and its impacts spread a great distance from the coastal points of contact.

Neil Whitehead uses the history of Northeastern South America to show how "Tribes make States and States Make Tribes." That is, the interaction of warfare at times pushes some groups to centralize and take on state-like forms of organization (or even become states). At other times warfare compels partially centralized chiefdoms to fragment. Survivors flee into hinterlands and form nomadic bands. He sees the formation of "segmentary lineages," an organizational form which allows successively larger, if more diffuse, kinship alliances to form and collapse in response to changing military pressures, as a generic solution to tribe-state warfare.

He re-examines the role of special trade goods in state-tribe trade relations. Even when some tribal peoples treated European "baubles with contempt" (pg. 145), both sides saw the utility in extending and maintaining political control. Even though guns were not of much use in rain forests, they were valuable as symbols of access to European goods. Here too, access to guns was used to encourage slave trade. More assimilated Indians were used against "wild" (i.e., unassimilated) Indians. The key point in Whitehead's account is the complex ways in which tribes and states construct each other through their interactions.

Thomas Abler re-examines the roles of trade in muskets and beaver hides in Iroquois history. While reciting much that is familiar, he reports some new findings and revises others. He dissects the cycle of trading beaver hides for guns, then needing guns to collect more beaver hides to trade for more guns. Reliance on European goods caused beaver hides to become far more important than deer hides. Dependence on guns changed warfare, decreasing formal battles--while a warrior could dodge an arrow or spear, he could not dodge a bullet.

Abler's strongest point is that depletion of beaver hides was a major impetus to expansion. He argues that the source of conflict between Hurons and Iroquois was access to beaver hunting territory rather than competition over the middleman role in the hide trade. It must be noted that warfare among tribes was often about trade: either gaining access or blocking access of rivals. His account is sufficiently persuasive to demand a serious hearing.

Warfare had other impacts on Iroquois society. Iroquois men often served as ethnic soldiers in European wars fought in North America. Many adult males were lost in war or to disease. The need to replace them led to wars to obtain captives who often were integrated into Iroquois society. Abler argues that the village was the key unit of Iroquois organization, and that councils were as much symbolic as real. He suggests that Iroquois social structure strongly resembles a segmentary lineage system that never quite became a state.

Michael Brown and Eduardo Fernandez examine state tribal relations in eastern Peru. They note that the tribal peoples of this region, known as Asháninka, had had contacts with Incas in prehistoric times, so had experience with state societies. Attempts to missionize the Asháninka were successful only as long as promised trade goods were delivered. Repeated interactions created a complicated social mosaic which were never understood by Spanish administrators. It is clear that various headmen learned to manipulate state leaders to their own advantage. Brown and Fernandez emphasize a point that runs through all these chapters. Namely, that tribal peoples were not mere passive victims of state expansion, but active shapers of their own histories. They conclude that, from prehistoric times to present conflicts generated by Shining Path guerrillas, state expansion consistently increases the level of violence in the zone of expansion.

In what is probably the most revolutionary chapter, Brian Ferguson argues that the Yanomami Indians of Venezuela, long celebrated in anthropology as unusually fierce, became that way at least in part because of impacts of European states. The argument is avowedly not that all that emanates from Europe is evil, but that under very peculiar circumstances state contact can lead to exceptionally severe tribal warfare.

European contact goes back at least four centuries. Two major factors contribute to intensified fighting. First, as villages became anchored near European outposts in order to obtain trade goods (steel tools, and, later, shotguns) game became depleted. In order to preserve his group, a headman would attempt to monopolize access to European goods and to extend alliances through marriages. Second, these processes coincided with the spread of European diseases which tore apart the social fabric, especially the system of marriage alliances. All of this led to heightened competition for increasingly scarce resources and a devaluation of women compared to men. These same processes also contributed to ethnogenesis as "regionally diverse Yanomami came to be generally recognized as a single cultural entity" (p. 225).

In the final chapter Andrew Strathern discusses recent changes in Papua New Guinea. With independence came a period of consolidation of political power and structure. During this time the power of the now local state in the hinterlands decreased considerably and with it local policing powers. As this happened young men increasingly came to have access to guns, either through trade or through manufacture of zip guns. This, in turn led to a return of generalized disorder and intergroup conflict. As the state gained power it attempted to control this situation in the pursuit of development, but faced a much more formidable task due to the diffusion of guns. Recently (1991) the state has regained control. An interesting aspect of this process is that when state control is strong, and warfare relatively less common, incidents of sorcery accusations and killings increase. A second point is the inverse correlation of warfare and state strength.

The foregoing summaries of these contributions facilitate discussion of Ferguson and Whitehead's analysis of state-tribe interaction. Their chapter, aptly titled "The violent edge of empire," is the most important contribution to the collection. Their punch line is that the Hobbesian image of tribal peoples rests on three fallacies: (1) that post-contact conditions and relations are a continuation of precontact conditions and relations; (2) that ethnic divisions are survivals of precontact divisions; (3) that tribal warfare is unreasoned hostility. Implicit in their discussion is the observation that these fallacies rest on a deeper false assumption that ethnographers, ethnohistorians, and historians usually have full access to the relevant context of contact.

The first fallacy is demonstrated by the various reports in the volume. All these accounts show that warfare, both state-tribe and tribe-tribe, increased substantially after state contact. Note, the claim is for increased violence, not creation of violence. Ferguson, Whitehead, and company do not propose that some idyllic Rousseauian paradise existed before nasty state people appeared. Rather, more subtly, they propose that violence increased, intensified, and sometimes transformed previously extant forms of violence. Similarly, most of these accounts illustrate how ethnicity is created through interactions which can either amalgamate or fragment previously existing groups. Thus, ethnicity is not a primordial survival. Clearly, too, there is a logic behind tribal warfare. It is not "unreasoned hostility." Generally, tribal warfare is driven by a logic of access to resources, whether they be natural or provided through trade.

Finally, the context of contact is vitally important, but not determinative, in the level of violence. The kind of state making contact, the motive forces driving state expansion interact with local conditions to produce a myriad of local consequences. To focus solely on the state, or solely on local conditions, is to miss the point--it is the interaction of the two that shapes events. Unfortunately, scholars often have little access to information of precontact conditions on the tribal side of the encounter. Given the rapid, massive impacts of contact, the assumption that conditions noted by even the earliest observers reflect precontact conditions is rendered highly questionable, at best.

Ferguson and Whitehead criticize world-system theory for failing to come to grips with these issues due to an overly strong focus on core activities and processes. While this critique is, in the main, correct, it is not entirely correct. Readers familiar with American Indian Culture and Research Journal may recall several articles that attempt to deal with this issue (9:3; 11:2; 14:1; 14:4). The gap is due to differences in the traditions of scholars of the anthropology of war and scholars of Indian-White relations. One goal of this review is to increase the dialogue between these groups, it is hoped, to their mutual benefit.

Ferguson and Whitehead have assembled considerable material with which the history of Indian-White relations can be compared and contrasted. From their evidence it is clear that North America is far from unique. However, it does seem to be distinctive in the intensity of the effects of European actions on tribal peoples. Whether this is due to differences between ancient states and European states in recent centuries in technology, political and economic power, or the complexity of the European trade network remains to be studied. It is also possible that the difference may be merely an artifact of distance in time. From the perspective of two thousand years ago, a century may seem like relatively rapid conquest, whereas from the perspective of 1993, a century constitutes nearly half the history of the United States as an independent state.

Precisely because scholars of Indian-White relations have studied North America so intensively, they have much to contribute to the attempt to understand the patterns and processes of state-tribe interaction, and warfare generally. Conversely, the attempt to understand those patterns is a rich field for new insights and research hypotheses for students of Indian-White relations. War in the Tribal Zone is an important contribution and an invaluable asset to interchange among scholars interested in the patterns of interaction between states and tribes.

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