Warfare and Society: Archaeological and Social Anthropological Perspectives

By Ton Otto; Henrik Thrane et al. | Go to book overview

1 Warfare and Society: Archaeological and Social
Anthropological Perspectives

TON OTTO, HENRIK THRANE AND HELLE VANDKILDE

… you can’t understand what the war has done to us. At first sight everything may look normal, but it’s not. Nothing is normal. The war has changed everything.1

The present book deals with the interrelationship between society and war seen through the analytical eyes of anthropologists and archaeologists. The opening quote – spoken by an informant to Torsten Kolind and published in his thesis about discursive practices in Bosnia just after the war in 1992–95 – captures the problems we face when we study war. Archaeologists and anthropologists alike rarely possess war experiences of their own: we study past and present wars, but remain total outsiders who depend on numerous and complex discursive layers – material, written, and spoken – to bring us insight on this subject, so demanding and so necessary to deal with. War is a ghastly thing, which unfortunately is thriving almost everywhere in the world at present: we need to understand better what war does to people and their societies. We are trained analysts, but to insiders war is mostly chaos and death and hence in a sense beyond analysis. It is a challenge in our studies to both ignore and include the compassion and feeling this subject is also about. Nevertheless, under the chaotic conditions of war and its aftermath people are fully aware of the changes happening to their world even if they cannot describe them sociologically. Doubtless, war always affects society and its agents. War does produce change, and archaeologists and anthropologists are analytically equipped to pinpoint its direction, patterning, scale and content. The perspective – and filter – of time provides one important tool, context and comparison other tools. Looking at the history of war studies, war is quite often perceived of and treated as something set aside from other practices; almost personified. However, the results published in this book allow us to say that it is never autonomous and self-regulating. War always forms part of something else. Numerous questions arise and at least some answers, often

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