Violence as a phenomenon has long been viewed as an aberration to the pursuit of a normal, peaceful and unthreatened life. Humans in all societies share explicit and implicit understandings of violence, its prevalence, its regulation, its threatening qualities, its manifestation in relations between members or groups in society, and as a marker of exceptional power typically associated with states. Yet we also do know that violence as a phenomenon is not reducible to specific marked and visible acts, but can also take the form of deep rooted structural practices, often legitimated under the rubric of culture, religious sanction, social practice, and so on. In the modern era these structures include the ubiquitous logic of the nation state, and the globally conflict-ridden interstate system, but also derive from the historic legacies of exploitative and violent long-term historical relationships forged in slavery and colonialism. In recent decades the systemic crises of global capitalism combined with the political and ecological costs of rampant resource extraction have combined to produce armed and low intensity conflicts spanning the globe.
Violence presents complex new questions to anthropologists who for decades have tended to focus on studying social worlds characterized by relative peace and calm, and if they did study violence, it was often with the intention of trying to understand the roots of violence in the realm of the social, its regulation and normalization via social institutions, and its relationship to the symbolic ideas and practices governing social relations, from the intimate domain of the household to the sovereign power of the state.
This course will explore the topic of violence through a series of lectures by visiting and UTK-based scholars that cover a broad range of research in anthropology and related social sciences. These lectures will cover war and its effects on combatants and non-combatants, on the constitution of the ordinary, and everyday life for many, the relationship between violence and the state, as it manifests in the overt and tacit exercise of power, and the relationship between violence and various forms of social inequality such as those built around social identities such as race, class, gender and sexuality. Lectures will highlight global issues of war and human rights, power and social inequality, and bring into sharp focus the ethical and moral implications of violence as well as the problems inherent in conventional understandings of its causes and effects.
Visiting Lecture Series Fall 2017 Schedule