This course weighs up the kinds of insights that anthropology has to offer in understanding violence, and therefore emphasises ethnographic accounts that explore the manner in which social life is shaped through different forms of engagement with violence. Considering violence from an anthropological perspective foregrounds concerns of meaning, representation and symbolism—understanding violence as expression as much as instrument. We will be approaching violence as usually meaningful and always culturally mediated, a phenomenon that is not outside the realm of human society.
A key theme to be explored is the contention that violence, rather than necessarily signifying a breakdown in social existence, often plays a part—perhaps even a fundamental one—in the maintenance or creation of particular forms of social order. To this end, we will be concerned with analysing not only the explicit acts of bodily harm that occur in violent conflict but more subtle forms of violence perpetrated by the nation–state and global institutions. In this sense, a vital aspect of the course involves engaging with the ‘anthropology of state practices’ through considering the relation of state and society as this shapes occurrences and expressions of violence.
Finally, we consider the relation of anthropology and anthropologists to debates about universal human rights and reflect on the position of the anthropologist in witnessing, theorising and writing about violence, as well as the methodological challenges, ethical dilemmas, dangers and responsibilities involved.
Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
1) Examine violence and terror by state and non-state agents in a cross-cultural perspective;
2) Identify and distinguish between different kinds of violence;
3) Understand different theoretical explanations for causes and experiential dimensions of violence;
4) Apply relevant concepts to actual case studies of terror and violence;
5) Formulate arguments about specific instances of terror and violence in a way that engages with contemporary scholarly debates; and
6) Consider various attempts to make peace in the light of these understandings of why violence occurs.
Indicative AssessmentMid-term essay, 1500 words (35%) [Learning Outcomes 1-5]
Class participation (10%) [Learning Outcomes1-6]
Take-home exam 2500 words (55%) [Learning Outcomes 1-6]
In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle.
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Workload130 hours of total student learning time made up from:
a) 36 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 24 hours of lectures and 12 hours of tutorials and tutorial-like activities; and
b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading, and writing.
Requisite and Incompatibility
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