Applying anthropology to post conflict

Purpose: This assignment is designed to encourage students to think about how a four-field anthropological approach can be applied to solve human problems. 

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***Instructions: You will choose one of three hypothetical scenarios to apply a four-field anthropological approach. After carefully reviewing the scenario of your choice and the guiding questions, write a 500 word report, in essay form, describing how each of the four subfields of anthropology could be used to address the problem presented in your scenario. Links to scenarios are provided below. 

***Report Requirements: Your report should address all four subfields of anthropology in no less than 500 words. It should be properly cited, proofread, in your own words, and in the following format: 

  • Title/Heading: Centered and single spaced at the top of the first page of your paper (you do not need a separate title page). Include title, course, university, name, and semester.
  • Font: 12 point font, Times New Roman
  • Margins: 1 inch
  • Spacing: single or 1.5 spacing
  • Citation Style: ASA (American Sociological Association)Preview the document
  • Submit your report as a Word document (.doc or .docx)

Sources: You should consult at least one source for your report. This can be your text book, reader, class readings, or credibleLinks to an external site. anthropology magazines, books, or journals. You must cite and reference any and all information you use from the sources you consult (with in-text citations and a list of references at the end). Your report must be in your own words and based on your own evaluation of the scenario. Plagiarism (including copying and pasting from websites) will result in a grade of zero. 

Post-Conflict Scenario

***Applying Anthropology: A Four-Field Approach to Post-Conflict Recovery and Reconciliation***

About Anthropology and Conflict, Violence, and Peace

The discipline of anthropology has long studied conflict and war, asking questions about the causes of war, human nature and culture, the variety of impacts (biological, cultural, psychological, societal, etc.), and how the experiences and interpretations of conflict differ. Anthropologists look at conflict and wars throughout history and pre-history and examine war narratives, justifications, and media representations. They study multiple dimensions of violence (symbolic, interpersonal, structural, blatant violence) and human suffering. But anthropologists are also involved in post-conflict situations, recovery, and peace-building efforts, as well as investigations into crimes against humanity. Such efforts requires a multitude of approaches.


Imagine you are a team of anthropologists made up of cultural, linguistic, biological, and archaeological anthropologists. You have been asked to consult, assist, and gather information in the aftermath of a regional civil war. The conflict took place for over a decade and officially ended two years ago. However, many survivors are still dealing with the ongoing impacts and trauma of the war experience. Your team has been advised that several civilian communities are still looking for community members who disappeared during the early years of the war. Rumor suggests that there are mass graves in the peripheral areas of the communities, which may contain the remains of missing community members. It is also rumored that unofficial state militias engaged in war crimes against civilians as they sought to quell rebel forces seeking state power.  How does your team go about researching and applying anthropological knowledge from all subfields to understand and investigate this situation? (i.e. how could cultural, biological, linguistic, and archaeological anthropologists contribute to understanding the conflict – how it unfolded, the impacts, response, and recovery?). Use the questions below to begin thinking about anthropological approaches to this scenario. 

Questions to consider:

  • Does history matter in this context? If so, what if the histories of the region are not well recorded? How would you gather that information?
  • How would you determine the best way to approach communities impacted by the conflict?
  • Are there language barriers among communities, experts, lawyers, and other officials?
  • How would you determine whether or not human rights violations occurred?
  • If violations have occurred, what kind of knowledge/evidence would be useful for making a case?
  • Do the survivors understand international human rights laws? Is the language of those laws accessible to communities (i.e. is it easy to read and understand?)
  • How do you investigate rumors?
  • If located, what is the best way to deal with human remains of victims?
  • What are ways to offer closure to survivors who lost loved ones?
  • What should be considered in efforts to recover and rebuild?

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