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how do societies give meaning to and justify violence

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York University
ANTH 1120
David Murray

14 November - 20 November • Nov 14/16: How do societies give meaning to and justify violence? Readings: 1) CA pp.275-281 [275] Chapter 8: the Cultural Construction of Conflict and Violence • Problem 8: how do societies give meaning to and justify collective violence? [276] Introduction - the justification of violent conflict • Spaniards justified their killing and enslavements as the work of god, carib defined their killing as the act of an animal processing a human body • Both peoples constructed meanings for their acts that distanced them from the consequences of their violence • Violence, a category in between peaceful disputing and major planned warfare and fighting, seems to be an intrinsic feature of human societies • Some say human beings have an innate instinct towards aggression and the roots of war an collective violence lie somewhere in their biological mechanisms that animals and humans have in common ---human nature [227] Violence is a cultural construction whos roots lie in the human mind, not in the genes • • How do societies construct meanings for violent conflict that masks its consequences and convince people that it is right and proper? Question 8.1: how do societies create a bias in favour of collective violence? One way societies create a bias towards collective violence is to reward it • • Taking others high status goods to provide you high status in society [278] - horses, rank and warfare among the kiowa • Kiowa captured horses of spaniards by raiding so they can secure enemys horses and to show bravery • Kiowa rank was determined by: number of horses a man possessed and by the honours accruing to him in warfare • Four ranks in society: • Highest was ongop • Ondeigupa • keen • dupom • To rise in status must get a horse and get honours in war [279] • Kiowa rewarded aggressive behaviour (steal horse) and bravery in battle by raise in status Good Hosts Among Yanomamo • Another way societies create a bias is favour of collective violence is to make it necessary asa way of protecting valuable resources Burning other peoples crops inorder to sell their own, as living primarily on crops they grown in • their garden • Women and children are valuable resources -men must protect their resource and be fierce • By attacking another village you are showing your fierceness • Raids may be conducted to avenge the death of a village member at the hands of an enemy village or as the result of an act of sorcery by an enemy • Raids may also be made to capture women or children • Violence may also be to invite members of another village for a feat and killing them and keeping wife and children • They then take refuge in allie villages---host villages generally accept sexual access to the wives of their guest or expect unmarried female guests to marry men of their village • Expressions of ferocity may be directed among village members as well • Beat others wives • Chest bump fights • Free for all brutality • each man strives to acquire females from others, it is necessary to adopt an antagonistic stance towards others, encouraging waiteri (ferocity) • Waiteri scene through their myths aswell of first child born of blood of moon was fierce and waged constant war on one and other • Waiteri teaches young males to be aggressive and hostile -- hitting tormentors and bullying girls [280] • Boys must hit eachother and fear turns into rage in battle Constructing Religious Justifications for violence Another way that violence is justified is to frame to as a cosmic struggle between good and • evil • Relgion • The characterization of ones enemies as satanic and oneself as gods people has long been a formula for justifying hatred and mass slaughter • People use religious rhetoric to justify violent acts • When devout adherents to religion commit violent acts in the name of god or spiritual mission, they are often responding also to social, political, or economic grievances as well • Osama bin laden [281] • Ashara preparing for ww3 good vs evil but only Aum Shinriko would survive • If a person is part of an evil social system, he or she is accumulating negative karmic debt-- killing them represents a mercy killing that allows their souls to moce to a higher plan than if they continued to exist in sin • Use religious justification for violence • Locating a struggle on a cosmic scale, aggressors elevate its importance beyond local concerns and instead invoke legendary battles between good and evil • Osama bin laden islam (good) ppl trying to destroy it (us)(bad) 2) Trawick 2010. Interviews with high School Students in Eastern Sri Lanka. Everyday Life in South Asia. Second Edition. Diane P. Mines and Sarah Lamb, eds. Bloomington: Indiana University Press: 384-398. [384] • School at anilaaddam is one of largest in hinterlands of eastern Sri Lanka • Several villages on edge of territory held by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) across from a Sri Lankan army LTTE fight army for an independent Tamil-majority state (which would include Anailaaddam) • • Tamil other groups joined the army to help try to take down & kill members of LTTE • Ferocity of the war in Sri Lanka is intense, and tamil civilians are its principal victims • Villages inbetween LTTE and army are most likely to be victims of crossfire (usually farmers) • Very poor these farmers, that feeding their family is greatest concern [385] • Problem of getting food is greatly exacerbated by the war • Interview students of Anilaabbam to learn how young ppl have been affected by the war and what choices they had made in the face of this war and why • Join or not join LTTE • Massacre of LTTE members stayed in their mind even if the families did receive compensation • 1991 rice mill massacre when army took revenge after facing a land mine and killed 160 civilians of Anilaabbam shooting and burning them • In between such major disasters, intermittent aerial attacks, shelling, ground attacks, disappearances and abductions have kept civilians in state of constant fear • Ppl born 1980 cannot remember a time without war, so this is normal • Try to imagine freedom: freedom from fear and freedom to move or to stay where they were, according to their own will (all restricted in their movements by army checkpoints) [386] • Most important experience in their life: school or incidence of 1987 or 1991 • Plan: if army attacked their area again thy would join LTTE; if not they would finish their schooling and live as civilians (join LTTE or live) If you join LTTE probably die • • Village trusted LTTE bc they were members known in the community and didnt attack civilians • LTTE was what had to be done for Tamils to get freedom • LTTE’s encouraged them to complete education, tho LTTE is running short on men and asking for recruitments----no forcible recruitment bc it would lead to an illdisciplined and illeffective fighting force at best • Some were trained and fled for personal gain and went to army (enemy group of the LTTE) [387] If one passed on the wrong side of the village could be forced to rat on the LTTE members of • if seeking revenge would willing tell • Historians of a certain bent have often argued that warfare strengthens a society by giving people a common cause toughening them in adversity • Modern Tamils who take pride in the military prowess of the LTTE are seeking prestige according the old Spenserian model(the fittest prevailing throughout the colonial empale/ military) • Aailaaddam isnt a violent culture --- believe killing is deeply sinful and LTTE take this sin upon themselves whether they take a life---to take on the sin is part of the sacrifice • If you join LTTE you have no future, no personal fulfilment but only hope of being remembered • Expect never see an end to this war--but hope LTTE will win, peace is impossible under Sinhala rule [388] Army is war so sinhala is war • • Army weapons kill father, soldiers raped sisters, feared army advances and army checkpoints restricted freedom Realistically only foreign intervention could help • • Total despair, lack of future is often cited asa cause for disaffection among youth, for their displays of cynicism reckless short term selfishness and acts of aimless violence • Among these students, despite sever poverty, exposure to chronic violence danger and displacement, despite the destruction of families, despite the urging of people they admired in the LTTE to join the armed conflict, interpersonal fighting was disdained • Physical aggression of villagers were shown in sports, no actual violence • Intense pride in education and school sports and school pride • Street children in LTTE, none in army side [389] • Students and adults living on the army side told me that boy who became cynical and dropped out of school early joined one of the movements for money, safety and for getting a gun--- prefer to be abuser than abused • No alcohol or tobacco with LTTE • Cultivated in aailaaddam and proud to be a farming community --aspired to be teachers • Determined to want only this: to farm the land, even someone else land, so that they could feed others and acquire knowledge even height they may never use it for their own purposes so they could pass it on to others • Goal was to only become middle class(no occupation goal) • Attacks on tamil civilians by the army or its supporting paramilitary groups only encourage young people to join LTTE • Some join because of revolutionary ideals or because of admirations for the members of the LTTE or because of a burning desire to fight back against the military that has abused and humiliated them or bc they have to die • Some join bc they feel safer as embers of LTTE than as unprotected civilians • Before LTTE attack they send their members to the jungle to provide safety, while leading civilians to fight for themselves [390] • Die now, or die later as a LTTE • Anger is attributed by Tamil people to those who act violently against them, such as the army or the paramilitaries Sinhala soldiers assume that someone who has been beaten will join the LTTE for renege, so • that any young Tamil man or woman who bears the scares of beating or torture is almost automatically assumed to be a LTTE • Human beings can adapt to anythin and the young people of Anilaaddam have adapted to terror, they are prepared to live with terror for the rest of their lives and make rational choices in the moments of terrors intensity---prepared to live with peace and peace is of course what they want most: no more fighting and no more army • Between moments of terror, the lives they build for themselves are lives of peace • 6 girls and boys between 13 and 22 [391] • Sri Lanakan military has confessed to the killings of 1987 and 1991 to the beings of countless suspected terrorists and to the bombing of places where terrorists were suspected to be [392] • People were shot bc of town problems • Been displaced to different towns due to the war and army bombings Cut and shot civilians during 1991 land mine massacre • • Special tasks forces and army would rob and destroy shops (1987) • Sometimes just beatings [393] • If say they are part of LTTE they are beaten and shocked • Best is when its only material loss • If you go to other side of lagoon they assume youre part of LTTE and beat you then release you [394] • Land mine resulted in 18-20 tamils being burned to death in a pit • All tamil people have been affected by the war • Checkpoints they check ID cards and c
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