Anthropology of violence: actors, repertoires and subjectivities


About this course

The Anthropology of Violence examines physical, structural, and symbolic violence as a force in everyday life. The course will look at conflict and war, but also at slow and everyday violence, as these give meaning to the past and present and shape our social worlds. Physical violence is an intrinsic part of war, but it is also intrinsic to inequalities such as racism and sexism. Such violence is usually associated with suffering and trauma, but its aftermath may lead to new subjectivities and new political arrangements, including through transitional justice. Structural violence is less visible, often seeping into our lives through inequalities and injustices that are not recognized as such. Relatedly, symbolic violence such as anti-Semitism or Islamophobia is both abstract and very present, possibly motivating further cycles of violence. Where do we find these forms of violence? How do we recognize and define them as violence? And what ethical and methodological questions emerge when anthropologists try to study this important part of social life? This course explores major concepts and theories that anthropologists have used to define and study violence and its aftermath. Themes may change from year to year, as we address current problems. General themes will focus on: colonial and postcolonial violence and rupture; globalization and neoliberalism; crime, armed conflict, and terrorism; suffering and subjectivity; memory and transitional justice, and the complex relations between perpetrators and victims of violence. We will pay special attention to the ethnographic study and representation of these issues.

Open to students in an advanced state of their study - not recommended to first year students. 45 ECTS achieved in the 1st Bachelor year.

Learning outcomes

  1. To analyze academic and societal debates about violence and develop a sound critical and scientific position of your own.
  2. To critically evaluate and compare various conceptual approaches on violence within anthropology.
  3. To apply conceptual approaches on violence in anthropology to empirical case-studies.
  4. To analyze and compare various conceptual approaches on violence in a presentation, a written assignment and in the moderation of a group discussion on these topics.

Required prior knowledge

You must meet the following requirements

Link to more information

  • Credits
    ECTS 7.5
  • Level
  • Contact coordinator
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