Warfare, discourse, and identity: an introduction

Otto, Ton (2006) Warfare, discourse, and identity: an introduction. In: Otto, Ton, Thrane, Henrik, and Vandkilde, Helle, (eds.) Warfare and Society: archaeological and social anthropological perspectives. Aarhus University Press, Aarhus, Denmark, pp. 385-391.

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[Extract] Warfare involves the use of violence to achieve one's goals by forcing other people to submit; it is 'politics by other means' (von Clausewitz 1989). Violence is thus a resource for controlling people. However, both violence and warfare are greatly enmeshed with meaning, just as all other forms of human action. To enter into war normally requires a cause and motivation, but apart from this basic premise variety abounds. The meaning of war can be tied to religious conviction or to a struggle for resources; it can be presented as morally justified and unavoidable or as a way to obtain glory and honour (cp. Warburton chapter 4). In one way or other the goals and motivations for warfare are embedded in a discourse that has currency at the time of action. I use the notion of discourse somewhat loosely - well aware of its complex intellectual history - to refer to all forms of meaning-giving activity as well as the products of that activity (in the form of documents and material culture). Subscribing to a Foucauldian perspective (cp. Dreyfus and Rabinow 1982), I see these meaning-giving activities as embedded in power relations while simultaneously engendering the subjectivities that define these relations. Warfare creates a context of acute contest for power that affects people's subjectivities and identities while coping with the situation. By identities I mean more or less stable ascriptions of social position, which are established in negotiations and sometimes contestations between those who subscribe to the identity and others who ascribe it to them (cp. Jenkins 1996; Otto and Driessen 2000; Vandkilde chapter 26).

Item ID: 16740
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
ISBN: 978-87-7934-110-4
Date Deposited: 24 Oct 2011 04:52
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2101 Archaeology > 210199 Archaeology not elsewhere classified @ 50%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950599 Understanding Past Societies not elsewhere classified @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology @ 50%
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