EASA 2014 : Conflicts and Social Violence in an Uncertain and Interconnected World

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EASA 2014.  Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution 
- innovation and continuity in an interconnected world / Tallin-Estonia, July 31st- August 3d 2014

 Panel 033.  Conflict & Social Violence in an Uncertain and Interconnected World

Sylvie Ayimpam (Institute of African Worlds IMAF), Roberto Beneduce (University of Torino), Jacky Bouju (IMAF-AMU)

Deadline for Proposals February 27th 2014

This panel wants to question the issue of ordinary violence and its dynamics in interconnected but uncertain contemporary societies. Whatever their shape, these social violence appear to be very different from spectacular collective forms of political or economical violence. Ordinary violence is violence experienced by ordinary people in their ordinary everyday lives. Occurring everywhere, they are ordinary and daily routine though always culturally or locally specific in their achievements. They take place in relationships or interactions undermined by power abuse or exploitation. One sees violence, one is violent or lives with violence, one is subjected to it and suffers from it, one qualifies it or judges it. Indeed, everybody has direct or indirect experience of it and is able to recognize it through the diversity of its expressions. How ordinary violence is perceived depends on a person’s beliefs and ideology and on the mainstream ideology of the local culture. Therefore, interpretations of what ordinary violence is vary widely and are a matter of heated discussion in any society. Previous studies have focused on the social construction of ordinary violence in ‘face to face’ interactions, in marital and kin relationships or in professional or neighbourhood relations in African societies. But, the kind of ordinary violence springing from distant interconnections and from a growing feeling of uncertainty has not been suited as such. Then, it is from these contexts that we want to investigate anew the issue of ordinary social conflicts and violence.

Considering interconnection it is fashionable to say that new intensive communication technics (mobile phones, internet, virtual networks, blogs…) favour proximity between individuals, allowing better acknowledgement and even intimacy. Yet, if ‘ordinary’ physical interactions may produce, at the same time, solidarity and rivalry, confidence and mistrust, one may think that communication intensification and acceleration in virtual interactions can generate unprecedented forms of violence. Then, what means virtual intimacy? Is connivance or complicity possible without co-presence?  In societies where orality is the main communication medium the mobile phone could indeed interconnect isolated distant persons. But, fine African observations show that the previous impossibility to be interconnected when at distance (as is the case for migrants) was also a way for individuals to emancipate or have a breath when caught in intrusive or constraining social relationships. Therefore, is the clear-cut separation of physical co-presence from oral communication so easy to achieve? Is not the imperfect privacy created by unavoidable interconnection creating new tensions, jealousy, contempt or envy between individuals? In Africa, for instance, an insisting rumour says that some mobile phone numbers can kill! How mobile phones or web virtual communications came to be be vectors of witchcraft violence in contemporary Africa?

What about the specific property of intimacy to protect personal stuffs needing to be hidden in order to preserve from insane curiosity? What kind of violence may spring from an irresponsible or thoughtless consent to see or to be seen and localised at any moment? Is not such an incomplete intimacy a new source conflict and violence? We would like to receive proposals that illustrate ordinary forms of conflicts and violence springing from the lack of intimacy between interconnected worlds.

However, present societies are not only characterized by intensive interconnection. They are also characterized by growing uncertainty. They are shaped by increasing economic inequalities, by social fragmentation and by cultural heterogeneity altogether creating a general feeling of uncertainty. The traditional ways of securing daily life (work revenue and income, family or community solidarity) do not succeed anymore in reducing uncertainty, insecurity and vulnerability for the weakest. For instance concerning land tenure, globalisation has increased international speculation on farming lands in many African countries thus increasing vulnerability and uncertainty for the poorest among farmers. In such conditions, the interconnected world is not only uncertain it appears also threatening.

Then, in Africa for instance, reducing uncertainty and searching for security have become everywhere one of the main personal or family goals. Indeed, this is made quite clear in the effervescence of popular beliefs in witchcraft and various occult practices that desperately try to make sense of widespread misfortune. Talisman protections and magical or religious practices appear then as appropriate resources to exercise favourable influences on personal fates. More seriously, ritual crimes and human body parts and bones traffic have become today prosperous activities that are boosted by an international demand originating from very wealthy individual trying to secure their dominating position. These beliefs and technics are thought to limit hazards and reduce uncertainty weighing on individual s’ fates. But, trust in witchcraft and magic practices goes along with mistrust in friends, neighbours or kins. Therefore, these cultural solutions generate in turn their lot of ordinary violence.

We would like, then to have contribution proposals describing ordinary violence springing from witchcraft beliefs and occult practices attempting desperately to secure private lives. Our aim is to understand how this violence is perceived, understood and justified by concerned social actors, be they victims, offenders or witnesses.

Proposals should rely on cases of ordinary violence based on observation, field work s’ studies or life histories collected in different social settings and contexts, in different parts of the world on conflicts and violence about land tenure, domestic, family or neighbourhood affairs, professional relationships or love relations, occults practices and witchcraft violence. The ordinary violence may be of any kind: physical or moral harassment, psychological coercion, implicit or explicit threats and menaces, power and authority abuse, and so forth.

This panel 033 is bilingual (French and English) multidisciplinary and contributions from social sciences (sociology, anthropology, political sciences, history, etc.) are welcome. To send a proposal in English or French please click on the link below and then on the button ‘propose a paper’ left bottom of the page.

http://www.nomadit.co.uk/easa/easa2014/panels.php5?PanelID=3084

Please note that deadline to send your proposal is on February 27th 2014

Key words: Social violence, ordinary violence, conflicts, social interactions, solidarity, trust, intimacy, interconnection, uncertainty, precariousness, vulnerability, virtual social networks, social regulation, collective action, anomy, social change.