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ANT2004 Anthropology of Power and Conflict

Units : 1
Faculty or Section : Faculty of Arts
School or Department : School of Humanities and Communication


Pre-requisite: Any two of the following Courses: ANT1000 or ANT1001 or ANT2000


One of the characteristics of humans, which they share with at least some species of higher primates as well as with a number of other social species is that individuals respond to frustration, or the constraint of their desires with fear or anger. This may generate conflict and competition and may escalate to dominance behaviour and threats of violence, or in response to these from other, submissive behaviour. This means that some individuals may use power, on their own, or their groups, behalf, to control the behaviour of others, as they attempt to get their own way. All social groups evolve behaviours and 'strategies', which may be used to constrain, direct and deflect the power and force of individuals. This is necessary to minimize demands and threats of violence or other coercion, which if unrestrained would threaten the cohesion and solidarity of the group. This is important because of the dependence, cooperation and support required from the members of a group of social animals such as humans if they are to survive.

Culture provides members of human groups with the means to identify and manipulate the uses and abuses of power and control in their own communities. People also obtain from their culture the motivations, values, and beliefs with which they may make sense of such things. They also obtain the knowledge of strategies and alternative options with which power may be addressed. We commonly refer to the study of power and control in human societies as "politics". As anthropologists we study political behaviour and political systems, considering in details their forms and expressions as aspects of the diversity of human cultures. We investigate power and control phenomena as they are found across the social scale from individuals through larger groups to the global system. Because power and control are closely associated with coercion and violence, anthropologists study these as part of the repertoire of human "political" responses.

Course offers

Semester Mode Campus
Semester 1, 2011 External
Semester 1, 2011 On-campus Toowoomba