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Virtual war and magical death: Technologies and imaginaries for terror and killing
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology.
2013 (English)Collection (editor) (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Virtual War and Magical Death is a provocative examination of the relations between anthropology and contemporary global war. Several arguments unite the collected essays, which are based on ethnographic research in varied locations, including Guatemala, Uganda, and Tanzania, as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and the United States. Foremost is the contention that modern high-tech warfare—as it is practiced and represented by the military, the media, and civilians—is analogous to rituals of magic and sorcery. Technologies of "virtual warfare," such as high-altitude bombing, remote drone attacks, night-vision goggles, and even music videoes and computer games that simulate battle, reproduce the imaginative worlds and subjective experiences of witchcraft, magic, and assault sorcery long studied by cultural anthropologists.


Another significant focus of the collection is the U.S. military's exploitation of ethnographic research, particularly through its controversial Human Terrain Systems (HTS) Program, which embeds anthropologists as cultural experts in military units. Several pieces address the ethical dilemmas that HTS and other counterinsurgency projects pose for anthropologists. Other essays reveal the relatively small scale of those programs in relation to the military's broader use of, and ambitions for, social scientific data.

Abstract [en]

"By placing in brackets conventional ways of contrasting modernity and pre-modernity, the contributors to this groundbreaking collection of essays bring into startling relief the phenomenological commonalities that underlie warfare and witchcraft, militarism and magic, while offering radically new insights into the virtual and ritual dimensions of violence and the 'war on terror'." —Michael D. Jackson, author of Life Within Limits: Well-Being in a World of Want.

"Virtual War and Magical Death is a creative project that is bound to stimulate constructive conversation. It inserts contemporary technologies of warfare, particularly the U.S. Army's Human Terrain System, into sociocultural anthropology's current reflections on its theoretical and methodological practices as well as the purposes of ethnographic inquiry within and beyond the discipline."—Carol J. Greenhouse, author of The Paradox of Relevance: Ethnography and Citizenship in the United States

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013.
National Category
Research subject
Cultural Anthropology
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-140374OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-140374DiVA: diva2:383497
Available from: 2011-01-05 Created: 2011-01-05 Last updated: 2014-11-05Bibliographically approved

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