Proposed panel: ‘Landscapes of war and conflict’
111th AAA Annual Meeting (Borders and Crossings), 14-18th November 2012, San Francisco, United States.
Proposals are sought from potential participants in a panel on the ways violence affects people’s engagement with place and the landscape at the next AAA annual meeting in November 2012. Organisers: Judith Bovensiepen (University of Kent) and David Henig (University of Kent).
Landscapes of war and conflict
“Though lines of imperial power have always flowed along rivers, water courses are not the only landscape to carry the freight of history.” (Simon Schama, 1995: 5, Landscape and Memory)
Anthropologists and historians alike have drawn attention to the ways the material world that surrounds us is intricately intertwined with history and politics. The landscape in particular can have a mnemonic quality that enables social actors to re-experience events that happened long ago. Yet, the experiences that are inscribed into the landscape are not just sources of knowledge, morality or power, but also of multiple affects, such as melancholy, suffering and pain. Moreover, the landscape is often a cause of conflict; borders, buildings and sites in the landscape can themselves come under attack or be recruited into violent struggles or combat. It is the landscape’s ability to cut across multiple scales and spatio-temporal borders that this panel will address.
Our objective is to explore the ways in which ‘critical events’ (Das 1995) such as experiences of war and conflict (including state and non-state violence or state breakdowns) transform people’s engagement with the lived environment. Bringing together anthropological perspectives on landscape and place-making, war and violence, materiality and affect, this panel will seek to examine how conflict alters people’s perceptions of place and their interactions with it. The focus will be on how places become sites of remembrance, as well as on the ways in which specific sites have to be systematically forgotten, avoided or demolished. Over the last decades, anthropologists have made a significant contribution to showing that war, violence and suffering are not just concerns for psychologists (e.g. Antze & Lambek 1996), but that they can also contribute to the destruction and reconstitution of social relations and systems of meaning (e.g. Kleinman, Das & Lock 1997). In this panel, we seek to extend the focus to place and landscape, exploring how places themselves are altered by conflict, how they may gain or lose potency or meaning, and how they can be concocted into violence, or incorporated into cosmologies of terror and suffering.
Places and physical structures can become part of an economy of oppression, which may include blocking pathways, destroying buildings, erecting borders, physical confinement and displacement. We also want to consider the ways in which emplacement (both abstract and primordial) can itself involve violence and how this may generate new forms of knowledge and experience. Relevant lines of inquiry could include: how the connection of places with conflict may alter people’s movements, social relations and religious or political practice; how the absence, transformation or destruction of certain sites may foster the imagination of future landscapes or utopian spaces; how this may promote attempts to invoke or re-instantiate mythic landscapes of the distant-past; how the remnants of war that are left behind or that are created in conflict (e.g. wandering souls, military waste or mine fields) shape and transform human modes of being in place and history.
We are open to a variety of different theoretical perspectives and welcome contributions from across the globe, which contain illustrative ethnographic detail. Please send a title and abstract of no more than 250 words to Judith Bovensiepen and David Henig by 4 March, 2012.