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Violence and Civilization Reading Group

Violence and Civilization Research Group

*New* Spring 2009

Begun as a faculty reading group in the Fall of 2008 with support of the Joukowsky Institute of Archaeology and the Ancient World, the "Violence and Civilization Research Group" has received the support of a Cogut Humanities Center Research Grant for its activities in the Spring of 2009. The group will continue to serve as a forum for discussions centering on the issue of social violence through time looking to both find common interdisciplinary ground and to further develop understanding and awareness of this crucial human problematic. This term in addition to holding meetings to discuss readings the research group will expand its activities to include an interdisciplinary workshop and talks by scholars at Brown and beyond. For additional information see the Cogut grant proposal.

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Violence and Civilization

Though "violence" (whether symbolic, structural or physical) has become a topic of interest across a number of social science and humanities disciplines, its deep historical dimension has not been adequately addressed. Archaeologists on the other hand, though perennially engaged in the study of long-term socio-political change (so called "social complexity", or the rise of "civilization") have largely ignored the constituting role of social violence in the rise of increasingly hierarchical and inegalitarian societies: in spite of dramatic examples of human sacrifice, endemic warfare, slavery, and torture to name just a few phenomena.

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If studies of ancient politics are missing the dimension of social violence and work on modern violence lacks a deep temporal dimension, then the ambivalent term "civilization" seems to me a bridge across the millennia. “Civilization” has been portrayed in both modern Western and pre-modern non-Western iterations in terms of ordering, domesticating, and anti-violence, yet routine or monumental defenses or expansions of "civilization" have supplied reason for some of history's greatest acts of violence: from crusades and genocides to the routine sacrifice of captives or the structural violence of the global economy.


Book Project

The Angel of History

Mission Statement

Schedule and Announcements

Readings (password protected: contact for access)



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