The Social Life of Weapons: Exploring the Materiality of Violence

Tessa Diphoorn, Utrecht University
Chelsey Kivland, Dartmouth College 

Panel Abstract: 

Throughout the past decades, anthropologists have focused attention on violence across diverse localities. This has included ethnographies on armed conflict and post-conflict settings, the everyday forms of violence that define many urban centres, and more structural forms of violence that paralyze people’s capabilities to lead optimal lives. Within this bulk of literature, studies have also investigated how violence is given meaning through narratives, memories, and various forms of popular culture. Yet the material turn – an exploration into the relationships between people and materialities – has not yet fully found its way into the sub-field of the anthropology of violence. This panel aims to address this by analysing how various objects and things shape the ways in which violence is experienced, performed, signified, and perpetuated. We thus aim to further understand violence through analysing the social life of the materials of violence. More specifically, we aim to explore this relationship by focusing on ‘weapons’, i.e. objects that are predominantly used to inflict pain. Across the globe, different types of weapons, such as knives, bombs, and guns, are key objects in violence. How do weapons participate in and even drive violent actions? What are the different effects that weapons have on bodies, intentions, attitudes, and actions? How do weapons represent and enact a certain type of pain? How can we understand this contextual diversity, both across different sites and objects? How do weapons move through different political, economic, and social landscapes? 

Interested presenters please send abstracts to Chelsey Kivland <> or Tessa Diphoorn <> by March 15, 2020.