Handbook of Political Anthropology
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Handbook of Political Anthropology

Edited by Harald Wydra and Bjørn Thomassen

This Handbook engages the reader in the major debates, approaches, methodologies, and explanatory frames within political anthropology. Examining the shifting borders of a moving field of enquiry, it illustrates disciplinary paradigm shifts, the role of humans in political structures, ethnographies of the political, and global processes. Reflecting the variety of directions that surround political anthropology today, this volume will be essential reading to understanding the interactions of humans within political frames in a globalising world.
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Chapter 19: New war zones or evolving modes of insurgency warfare?

Morten Bøås


This chapter argues that new war zones are neither substantially new nor incomprehensible. It is only our approaches that all too often make us avoid seeing the obvious: people take up arms because they are angry, scared, poor, or short of other livelihood opportunities. On the one hand, regional ‘big men’ operate in a downward direction to capitalise on local grievances, largely for their own benefit. On the other hand, one can witness the evolution of local defence forces/militias moving upwards and becoming intertwined in larger networks and markets (and, in the process, producing new regional big men). A political anthropology of new war zones is therefore confronted by a field of constant flux and fragmentation, where the important dimension to keep track of is less the very agents of violence but the nodal points in these networks of governance and violence, and their ability to maintain networks across space and time.

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