Dead Certainty: Ethnic Violence in the Era of Globalization

A. Appadurai
1998 Public culture  
U nder what conditions is group violence between previous social intimates associated with certain forms of uncertainty regarding ethnic identity? In sketching an approach to this question, I build on an argument against primordialism developed in a previous work (Appadurai 1996) and lay the foundations for a larger study of ethnic violence currently in progress. In one widely shared perspective, ethnic violence, as a form of collective violence, is partly a product of propaganda, rumor,
more » ... ce, and memory -all forms of knowledge and all usually associated with heightened conviction, conviction capable of producing inhumane degrees of violence. But there is an alternative approach to ethnic violence, with roots traceable to Durkheim's (1951) work on anomie and Simmel's (1950) ideas about the stranger. This tradition of thinking -which focuses on doubt, uncertainty, and indeterminacy -has surfaced 225 Earlier versions of this essay were presented before audiences in Amsterdam, Cambridge (Mass.), Chicago, Paris, and Rio de Janeiro. The valuable criticisms and suggestions offered to me on these occasions were too numerous to fully engage in this revision. Many persons who raised valuable questions at these sessions cannot be named here, for the list would be too long. However, I must note the encouragement, queries, and suggestions of the following persons:
doi:10.1215/08992363-10-2-225 fatcat:ale42wlnyzgopmblksbuejiasq