Theorizations of language and violence have a long history of coarticulation. Those theorizing violence have looked to language to make sense of it, and scholars of language have recognized a violence inherent in its structure and use. Anthropologists have used ethnography to explore differing experiences of violence, with a focus on everyday violence. Such work has uncovered the ways in which language can facilitate, justify, construct, normalize, and resist experiences of violence. Linguistic anthropologists, in particular, have articulated the discursive nature of structural violence, speech acts as forms of violence, and language policies and forms of language classification as violent practices.
Language and Violence
Robin Conley Riner
Anthropology of Peace and Justice Studies
Eric Montgomery and Elizabeth Drexler
The early 21st century has seen the largest protests for social justice in the history of the U.S., including the Women’s Marches of 2016–2020 as well as the Movement for Black Lives. Meanwhile, the Farmers’ Protest in India constitutes the largest and most expensive protest in the history of the world. Cases of state and political violence and genocide around the world have been addressed in transitional justice processes and peace agreements or commemorated in various forms. And yet, even as individuals and groups mobilize for peace and justice, violence and oppression continue to proliferate around the world. What we identify as the anthropology of peace and justice encompasses the empirical analysis, theoretical engagement, and practical advocacy of anthropologists across the subfields. These anthropologists work to identify, conceptualize, and study individual and collective engagement with violence, oppression, injustice, and efforts to make change, seek justice, and establish sustainable peace. Anthropological theory and methods are well suited to capture emergent, ongoing, and innovative struggles for justice that occur in a range of social, cultural, political, and institutional realms drawing on collective cultural and symbolic actions. Today’s anthropologists engage with issues of violence, conflict, inequality, and struggles for justice and equity. We highlight theoretical, methodological, analytic, and ethnographic elements that distinguish anthropological approaches to peace and justice studies from other disciplines that examine this domain. Anthropologists engaging immigrant rights, movements for racial justice, indigenous rights, climate justice, gender equity, the Fight for $15, Occupy Wallstreet, gun violence, and issues of authoritarian rule and neoliberalism (market-oriented principles and government deregulation) in the era of globalization continue to build this vibrant and expanding area of anthropological concern.
Police and Policing
Paul T. Clarke and Julia Hornberger
Policing, perhaps more than any modern institution, has become the subject of intense political contestation. Police killings have sparked clashes in the public sphere and in the streets over the role of policing in society in diverse places such as the United States, Eswatini, Brazil, France, Hong Kong, and Iran. At the same time, policing from the vantage point of policymakers is often taken as a straightforward way of reordering society, of putting law into practice. What, then, could be gained by studying the police anthropologically—by following them in their everyday work, listening to them in their own words, and seeking to understand them in the context of their own environment? The anthropology of police and policing understands its object of study neither as just reflection of society nor pure execution of policy but as a potent force of imagination and action in itself. On the one hand, policing throws into stark relief the wishful thinking of what orderly society would like to be. This dynamic can take the form of people projecting their desires onto the police or the police performatively enacting these expectations and their own visions of power and authority and who they would like to be. On the other hand, policing manifests itself as a means of exclusion, inequality, and violent differentiation. It operates as a key force within societies at odds with the flourishing, and even survival, of many of those who live within it. The anthropology of policing’s unique perspective originates from the subfield’s diverse geographical and institutional scope, encompassing state and nonstate policing practices in places across the globe. It is also a product of the broader discipline’s approach to quotidian practices as always already embedded in multiple layers of context and inflected by broader social institutions. Within this vein, anthropologists have mobilized ethnographic studies to explore how states are given force and effect through mundane bureaucratic practices and how more foundational notions such as sovereignty, legitimacy, and authority are enacted through policing. Other scholars have shown how policing’s seeming ability to materialize these more transcendental aspects of statehood has lent policing to be embraced and animated by religious practice and justification. Crucial within this scholarship is an emphasis on policing as a provisional and emergent form of authority, which is ultimately dependent on spectacular and quotidian forms of performance. As a consequence, policing has become a rich site for the anthropology of policing to explore how contemporary citizenship is taking shape, how structures of exclusion within it are emerging, and how these exclusions are contested at multiple scales. As these contests have taken greater prominence, the subfield itself has been home to debates not simply over how best to do an anthropology of the police but also whether, in this tense political moment, it is worth studying the police ethnographically at all.
Anthropology of Modern Traces
Paul Wenzel Geissler
Industrial and colonial capitalism, and underlying ideas of melioration and domination, technological progress and encompassing, violent territorial expansion, shorthanded as “modernity,” have made and remade the material world humans inhabit today. Despite mounting doubts about modern projects and their progressive temporalities—on account of their mistakes and failures, and the collateral damage they caused—their material remains and residuals persist in the present, as potential “traces of modernity,” shape human and non-human life, and thus trigger anthropological curiosity. The spatial and temporal scale of such traces after modern endeavors ranges between that of abandoned industries and permanently damaged landscapes and that of toxic molecules and modified DNA. Some traces, such as carbon dioxide molecules transforming the Earth system or endocrine disruptors reshaping reproductive futures, challenge the very notion of scale. Traces include spectacular architectural ruins and trivial everyday objects. Some are attributed potency or beauty; others are considered waste or evoke repulsion. Accordingly, some are overlooked, hidden, or erased, while others are collected, preserved, or turned into monuments. Modern traces enmesh multiple temporalities. Referencing the past when they originated and the progressive aspirations they once served—that now are past futures—they often also embody the subsequent disappointment and decay, and they have present lives, which may or may not relate to these pasts and the temporalities they had harbored. Traces retain future potentiality and trigger unpredictable effects—being transformed or decaying with time, and transforming other materials or lives in turn. And being both damaged and inherently destructive, and ripe with utopian hope, they embody lasting modern ambiguities. Anthropologists have studied such traces explicitly in ethnographies of, for example, abandoned railway networks, postindustrial towns, outdated laboratories, or landscapes ravaged by colonialism and, implicitly, as an inevitable backdrop of social life in the present aftertime of modernity. Informed by neighboring disciplines that reshaped anthropology’s material sensitivities, like science and technology studies, archaeology and geography, these anthropologists are developing “tracing” as an ethnographic method: following and getting entangled with traces’ human sociality and more-than-human ecologies and attending to their affective resonances and effects, in order to explore the intertwining of materials and temporality in traces, their presence, and their potentials for the future. Social life after modernity is lived on and off the material substrate of modern traces, which have been left behind anywhere on the planet and surround or even physically pervade both human and nonhuman life-forms. Human practices and interspecies interactions in the Anthropocene inevitably engage with traces - often involuntarily and unpredictably -, in much the same way as the tentative, searching tracing pursued by the anthropologist. The anthropology of modern traces thus contributes to the key task of social anthropology, which is to understand the social organization, interaction, and process in the aftertime of modernity.
Youth Social Exclusion in Latin America
Gonzalo A. Saraví
Globalization and neoliberalism changed the structure and dynamics of contemporary society and imposed a new social question dominated by exclusion, precariousness, and inequality. Social exclusion is not an individual attribute but a social process; it is an inherent result of a neoliberal capitalist society that produces different disposable figures around the world. Exclusion means not “being outside” of society but “being inside” in unfavorable, subordinated, and devalued material, social, and symbolic conditions. Therefore, youth social exclusion implies a process of socialization, subjectivation, and life trajectories in an unfavorable world: a process of inclusion in exclusion. This process crystalizes in at least three main spheres: space, the self, and the life course of young people. In Latin America, extreme social and material deprivation intersects with gender inequality relations, social (mis)recognition, violence and crime, institutional weakness, and growing spaces of (i)legalisms, among other dimensions. All of them shape the place, subjectivity, and biography of most disadvantaged young people throughout the Latin American continent.