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Book Project

The Angel of History

Mission Statement

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Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423

Violence and Civilization: Sketches of a Deep History (Mission Statement)

A variety of classical political theorists, from Hobbes to Weber, have located legitimated violence at the center of state power. Norbert Elias has argued that the pacification and courtierization of Medieval European warrior aristocracies led to a removal of physical violence in a "civilizing process". Marx and scholars inspired by him have seen history in terms of the dialectical resolution of relations of domination and alienation. Given these deeply influential perspectives on history and social-political forms, one would expect violence (whether direct or indirect, physical or structural) to be a topic of great historical interest. This, however, has not been the case. Despite a growing body of work on violence across a broad spectrum of social sciences and humanities disciplines, the discussion has largely remained remarkably shallow in historical depth. Archaeologists, pre-historians and ancient historians on the other hand, when not simply ignoring violence, have tended to focus on overt physical practices, subcategorizing them as war, slavery, sacrifice, etc. and either seen the violence inherent in each of these categories as exceptional to "normal" social order or an unfortunate epiphenomenon of relatively primitive political or economic institutions. In short, violence has not been taken seriously as a historically dynamic, mutually constituting element of social-political practice and personhood.

In collecting papers from a broad range of times, places and disciplinary perspectives, the volume intends to explore the dynamic deep historic articulations of violence, order and subjectivity. That is to say, the goal is to introduce the anthropology of violence to history in the broadest senses of those terms. At the same time, despite the breadth of scope encapsulated in "violence and civilization", the papers themselves will be situated in specific times and places, creating, as much through their disjunctures as their continuities, a space for comparative meta-histories of violence and civilization. Like a Chinese painting then, this volume aims to evoke its object with a few well-placed strokes rather than attempt a totalizing vision of an impossibly large landscape.