Africa, Journal of the International African Institute
Co-edited by Florence Bernault
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Volume 85, Issue 3
Violence is a murky issue to research and to theorize: this introduction suggests that it has also often been approached differently by anthropologists and historians. In the pages that follow, we reflect on the ways in which both disciplines have worked to interpret violent events in Africa, whether in the deep past, during the colonial era or in more recent periods. To better contextualize these disciplinary advances, we intersperse them with brief reviews of general theories on violence. The three articles featured in this special section, while dealing with very dissimilar case studies, provide common insights on three main themes. The first engages with the paradox of the contingency and continuity of violence, and with the unevenness of perpetrators, victims and targets. The second deals with the refractive meanings attached to violent events. The third probes, underneath the apparent turmoil of violent acts, the deep moral and cultural frameworks of action that underwrite them. We have composed this introduction around these main questions.