Call for papers - Part 2

posted by julia on 2007/07/21 14:39

[ Call for papers ]

The Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology and the German Political Science Association plan a workshop on Social figurations of violence and war beyond the State in Halle/Saale (Germany) on 21 -22 February 2008. Proposals can be sent in until 31 July 2007 to Jutta Bakonyi. Please download the call for papers and/or read on for more information.

Weak states, state failure and state decay are
catchwords utilised to describe transformations of the
global and local political order based on the state.
Most of these publications draw on a rather
‘absolutist view’ of the state, imagining it as the
sole founder and main guarantor of law and order and
hence the main source of social rules, norms and
values guiding the everyday life of its people.
Putting into question such state-centric approaches,
empirical studies have meanwhile revealed that
alternative forms of social regulation and governance
may be prevalent under the cover of formal state
control, either because the state has not managed or
because it has not intended to extend its power into
all (peripheral) areas and/or social fields within its
demarcated territory.

Such social and territorial realms, in which violence
is widespread and mainly (though not necessarily
exclusively) shaped and regulated by non-state actors,
and in which alternative sources of profit, power and
legitimacy have been established, are at the centre of
this workshop. Areas and societal niches of interest
remote/peripheral areas which are spatially and
socially distinct from the administrative state
urban niches or ‘ghettos’ shaped by (juvenile)
delinquency and gang violence,
areas of long lasting banditry,
zones of violent conflicts and war.

We invite contributions which scrutinise social
actions and processes taking place within such realms
and/or during violent conflicts and wars and which
examine how a variety of social actors – violent and
non-violent, individual and collective, state and
non-state – are engaged in these social settings, how
they interact, which goals and world-views they
follow, and how their interactions (often
unintentionally) shape the emergence of structures,
social rules and institutions which, in turn, regulate
and transform the daily practices within these

The workshop’s overarching aim is to contribute to a
deeper understanding of social processes and
institutions shaping violent orders beyond the state.
For that purpose we would like to bring together
scholars from different disciplines and with a variety
of ideas, experiences and expertise in this field of

The following interrelated fields are envisaged for
comparisons and in-depth analyses of violent

(1) Actors in violent settings: In order to further
develop and differentiate typologies of violent
formations, the workshop aims at bringing together
in-depth studies on 1) violent organisations such as
gangs, mafia-type organisations, insurgencies or
warlord groups, and 2) non-violent organisations in
violent settings, such as business-groups,
non-governmental organisations, self-help groups,
traditional or religious authorities, intellectuals
etc. It is not always easy to distinguish violent from
non-violent actors, since people/groups not directly
engaged in violence may nonetheless indirectly
contribute to its maintenance. Therefore, we would
like to invite micro-studies that, on the one hand,
address the internal structures and organisational
principles, economic foundations and social anchorage
of such groups, their strategies to increase local and
external support and to find accomplices and recruits,
and which, on the other hand, focus on the questions
how violent and non-violent organisations interact
with each other at local, national and/or
international levels, and how these interactions
influence dynamics of violence and governance.

(2) Violence and legitimacy – power and identity: Like
all social actions, violence is embedded in a world of
meaning. Violent groups use ideological schism, myths,
memories, narratives and symbols to gain supporters as
well as internal and external legitimacy, and, on the
other hand, to define enemies and potential victims.
These ideological and symbolic domains provide
mechanisms for both inclusion and exclusion, for
claiming, according and denying membership and all
forms of entitlement. Daily practices and legitimising
discourses are, however, not free from inconsistencies
and may even contradict each other. Especially the
necessity to attract and satisfy external donors and,
at the same time, maintain internal support may lead
to conflicting narratives and actions. Central
questions are, therefore, how violent groups or
different strata within violent settings cope with
conflicting requirements, and how narratives and
mythologies reflect such social realities, guide
social actions and/or shape violent dynamics. While
current research has addressed the utilitarian,
rational sense of violence, the workshop aims at
focussing on the under-researched emotional and
symbolic aspects of legitimising violence and violent
organisations. Heroism, glory, honour/dishonour or
shame are emotional drives in many violent settings.
Furthermore, as such ‘symbolic means of orientation’
are also utilised to distinguish insiders from
outsiders, friends from foes, (potential) supporters
>from (potential) enemies, and to determine what it
requires and means to be an in- or outsider
respectively, they are also deeply connected with the
process of group membership, status and identity

(3) Violence, subjectivity and the body: In order to
lay open the historically and culturally shaped
meanings of violence, we need to shift perspectives
>from what is being done to how things are done. This
demands an ethnographic view, a description and
analyses of practices, features and modalities of
violent acts themselves. One field of such a close
elaboration of violent practices is the body.
Sociological and historical studies have elaborated on
the connection between forms of violence, the body and
the creation of the modern subject. While they have
outlined that the political economy of the body
reflects the microphysics of power in that power
relations are inscribed in the body through drill,
excruciation and the like, anthropologic studies have
contributed further studies on how the body is
utilised to define the own self, to demonstrate
identity and to mark status, and on how body emblems
and markers serve as a medium of communication with
‘close’ outsiders.

(4) Transformations of violent orders: Social
figurations of violence and war are dynamic phenomena
which may include processes of de-institutionalisation
as well as institutionalisation. While studies have
concentrated on how formal governance ‘deteriorates’
into social orders beyond the state, we would like to
direct the attention to local dynamics in violent
settings that favor the (re-)emergence of governance
and state-structures and to examine how local,
national and international actors interact and
influence local reconstruction. Some violent actors
are not able to maintain their power positions while
others are quite successful in transforming into
non-violent organisations, acting as main political
actor of the emergent peaceful political and social
order. A closer look at the interactions between
violent and non-violent actors in violent settings may
reveal the underlying dynamics responsible.

We would like to encourage scholars and researchers
from different disciplines such as anthropology,
sociology, political science, geography and history to
send in their proposals. Case studies of current as
well as historical cases are both most welcome.
Contributions should address a specific context and
explore one of the fields outlined above. Proposals
should not exceed 3 pages. Travel and accommodation
costs of paper-givers will be covered.

Deadline for proposal submissions: 31 July 2007

Please send your proposals to Jutta




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