Accepted paper:

Critiquing the limits of anthropological imagination in peace and conflict studies: On the complicity of resistance with counter-hegemony


Philipp Lottholz (Collaborative Research Centre/Transregio 138 "Dynamics of Security")

Paper short abstract:

This paper will critically engage with the dilemmas of a symbiotic anthropological approach by analysing how 'everyday' realities of resistance are embedded in discourses of counter-hegemony instead of offering a viable 'third way', thus necessitating critical transdisciplinary thinking.

Paper long abstract:

Anthropological approaches to social conflict and post-conflict transition, and ethnographic methods in particular, have been welcomed as way beyond the impasse in the debate between proponents of a Western-style, 'liberal' peace model and its radical critics. It has been argued that ethnographic perspectives can help to discover the 'local voices' that are muted by hegemonic discourses of Western intervention. Yet, this 'ethnographic turn' has not quite materialised, but remains the sketch of a research agenda that is waiting to be realised by future generations of scholars in peace and conflict studies. This paper will take issue with the claim that ethnographic perspectives, and an anthropological approach in general, can help to resolve political science and international relations (IR) debates about the viability of Western forms of social and political order in non-Western settings. By combining literature-based and fieldwork data analysis from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the paper aims to throw light at the 'everyday' realities of people in so-called transition countries. While debates about the 'liberal peace', democratisation, economic reform etc. have been said to be detached from such realities, the paper will argue that ethnographic perspectives and the realities they unveil might not necessarily point to viable alternatives from global hegemonies. This leads to the conclusion that there is a high need for critical reflection and transdiciplinary thinking in order to expose, critique and avoid the ethical and political dilemmas of symbiotic anthropologies.

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panel P06
Symbiotic anthropologies: new disciplinary relationships in an age of austerity