Spring 2016 - SA 203 D100

Violence in War and Peace (SA) (4)

Class Number: 2304

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 5 – Apr 11, 2016: Tue, Thu, 10:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    SA 101 or 150 or 201W.



A critical examination of the relationship between violence and structural inequalities. Focus will be on different forms that violence assumes in war and peace and how acts of violence are remembered, collectively denied or misrecognized. Particular case studies may include colonization of indigenous people, Holocaust, South African Apartheid, India's Partition, the genocide in Rwanda, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 9/11 and its aftermath along with everyday suffering, including gender violence. As well, special attention will be given to anthropological witnessing.


Much has been written on the erosion of communities and disruption of everyday life as a result of war, structural violence and systemic practices of state terror. Relatively less attention has been given to how we remember and witness acts of violence. How people continue to live and remake their worlds in the midst of worst horrors has not been substantively documented. In this course, we will focus on the dynamic relationship between violence, act of witnessing and reconstruction of lives in the context of militant globalization. Central questions include:  What is at stake for local communities following traumatic violence and social suffering? How are various social actors, ranging from global institutions to modern states, implicated in the production and actualization of structural violence? What is the political significance of the lived experience of suffering? How do we resolve the tension between “official version” on violence, and personal narratives? Can the human experience of suffering ever be fully documented? What makes genocide possible? What are “peaceful” crimes?  

To answer these questions we will look at the relationship between violence and structural inequalities using a comparative lens.  Following an overview of the anthropological perspectives on violence, we will examine ethnographic and other case studies to show the different forms that violence assume in war and in peace.  Particular group-based exercises will include: the Syrian Conflict; ISIS; the Palestinian Question, the Holocaust, Afghanistan; Africa; the Apartheid, the Arab Spring, Idle no More, 9/11 and its aftermath as well as everyday suffering and violation of human rights. Through comparative case studies, we will explore how diverse configurations – the spectacular and the quotidian, the local and the global, the public and the private – come together to define the realm of social power, knowledge and human agency.  

While this course does not endeavour to offer solutions to the pressing problems of violence and social suffering, it will provide insights on “bearing witness,” a position that calls for a reflexive, a political, and a moral commitment.    

This course has a seminar/lecture format. It includes field work outside class time and group presentations. Students are required to participate actively in class discussions. 


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Acquire a structural understanding of violence and identify attempts to create a peaceful world 
  • Critically explore themes and questions from the literature         
  • Carry out independent library and on-line research 
  • Design and undertake “field”  projects 
  • Acquire a broad and in-depth understanding of historical and current (neo- imperialism) trajectories of violence globally 


  • 1. Review of Articles: 20%
  • 2. Group Presentation: 20%
  • 3. Semester Paper: 40%
  • 4. Class Participation: 20%


Where a final exam is scheduled and you do not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, you will be assigned a N grade. Unless otherwise specified on the course outline, all other graded assignments in this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned.

Academic Dishonesty and Misconduct Policy
The Department of Sociology and Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T 20.01) and academic dishonesty and misconduct procedures (S10.01‐ S10.04).  Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded writtenassignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style.  It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student.html.   



Perera, Suvendrini and Sherene Razack (ed.) At the Limits of Justice: Women of Colour on Terror,  The University of Toronto Press, 2014.

Dossa, Parin  Afghanistan Remembers: Gendered Narrations of Violence and Culinary Practices, The University of Toronto Press, 2014

Additional Readings will be available through SFU on-line journals and websites to be accessed by students independently.  

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html