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Introduction[edit | edit source]

  • This Course is based mainly on "Reflections on the Possibilities of a Nonkilling Society and a Nonkilling Anthropology", chapter prepared by Professor Leslie E. Sponsel (University of Hawaiʻi) for Toward a Nonkilling Paradigm (Honolulu: Center for Global Nonkilling, 2009). The Course is part of the Interdisciplinary Program on Nonkilling Studies at the School of Nonkilling Studies.

Is a nonkilling society possible? What are the possibilities of a nonkilling political science? These are the two elemental, central, and pivotal questions that Glenn D. Paige (2002) raises and explores in his ground breaking book which is generating a quiet but accelerating and far-reaching revolution in theory and praxis throughout the world (Bhaneja 2008, The present essay addresses these two questions and related matters from one anthropologist’s perspective and cites some of the extensive literature for documentation and as sources for further information, although no attempt has been made at a thorough literature review, especially for periodicals.

The particular approach to anthropology used here needs to be clearly specified at the outset. American anthropology may be defined as the holistic scientific and scholarly study of human unity and diversity in all of its aspects throughout time and space. It encompasses the five subfields of archaeology, biological (or physical) anthropology, cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and applied anthropology. In varying ways and degrees, American anthropologists share a concern for human evolution, human diversity (biological, cultural, and linguistic), culture and cultures, fieldwork, and comparison (especially cross-cultural). Anthropology is also unique in its scope which ranges from in depth studies of local communities to surveys of the human species as a whole (Birx 2006, Perry 2003, Salzman and Rice 2004).

Nonkilling Society[edit | edit source]

Is a nonkilling society possible? Without any hesitation, my answer is affirmative. As a political scientist, Paige pursues the framework of nation states or countries noting that today there are 195 such entities. In contrast, an anthropologist would more likely pursue the framework of cultures. Estimates of the number of extant cultures in the world today are around 7,000 (Summer Institute of Linguistics 2008). Furthermore, whereas countries typically range in age from a few decades to a few centuries, cultures are centuries to millennia old. Accordingly, examples of nonviolent and peaceful cultures can also be important evidence in answering Paige’s first question in the affirmative. Such socio-cultural systems generally accord with Paige’s (2002:1) definition of a nonkilling society as “... characterized by no killing of humans and no threats to kill; no weapons designed to kill humans and no justification for using them; and no conditions of society dependent upon threat or use of killing for maintenance or change.”

At the same time, the logic that Paige pursues regarding the frequency of killing by humans is affirmed as well by anthropology. He argues that women seldom kill other humans, and that only a minority of men kill other humans (cf. Levinson 1994, WHO 2002). To phrase it another way, the overwhelming majority of humans have not been involved directly in any kind of killing. The Yanomami are an anthropological case in point. They were stereotyped and stigmatized in a derogatory way as “the fierce people” by Napoleon Chagnon (1968, 1992). However, if one actually scrutinizes his own ethnography (description of a culture), then it is apparent that most individuals within Yanomami society do not kill others. There is no mention of a woman killing a man or another woman. Raids and other forms of intergroup aggression are not ubiquitous in space and time by any means. Not all men from a village participate in a raid on another village. Also, Chagnon mentions that often many members of a raiding party find excuses to retreat rather than participate in the entire process (Sponsel 1998).

Other anthropologists who have conducted research with the Yanomami, some living with them for many more years than Chagnon, like Bruce Albert, Gale Goodwin Gomez, Kenneth Good, Jacques Lizot, and Alcida Ramos, have all called into serious question Chagnon’s characterization of the Yanomami as the “fierce people.” Apparently as a result of such authoritative criticism, Chagnon dropped that subtitle from later editions of his book, yet his characterization in the text persists anyway (Sponsel 1998). The ethnography by Chagnon together with the wealth of dozens of other books on the Yanomami could be examined to identify a multitude of examples of nonviolent and peaceful behaviors that prevail in the daily life of most individuals and communities (see especially Dawson 2006, Ferguson 1992, 1995, Good 1991, Lizot 1985, Peters 1998, Ramos 1987, 1995, Smole 1976, Sponsel 1998, 1999, 2006c).

A nonkilling society is not only just a possibility as Paige theorizes, rather in reality many such societies actually exist today. The most famous one is the Semai of the Malaysian forest. They fit Paige’s criteria for a nonkilling society and were first described through field research by Robert Knox Dentan (1968). Years later Clayton Robarcheck (1979, 1992, 1996, 1998a,b) independently confirmed Dentan’s characterization of the Semai. Much later Clayton and Carole Robarcheck worked among the Waorani who were supposedly one of the most violent societies known, as will be discussed here later. In an ingenious comparison between the Semai and Waorani, the Robarcheck’s (1992, 1998a) concluded that the worldview of each of these two cultures was the single most important influence on whether they were peaceful or warlike. Otherwise, they were very similar in many respects such as their subsistence economy.

Beyond the Semai, dozens of other nonkilling societies have been documented extensively in the anthropological record. David Fabbro (1978) published the earliest modern cross-cultural study identifying the basic attributes of existing peaceful societies which accord with Paige’s criteria. The most systematic and extensive documentation of such societies is by Bruce D. Bonta (1993, 1996, 1997). He compiled an annotated bibliography of 47 cultures that are generally nonviolent and peaceful (Bonta 1993). A wealth of information on these and other aspects of this subject are archived on his encyclopedic website called “Peaceful Peoples” ( By now there are several other surveys and inventories of nonviolent and peaceful societies including those by Baszarkiewicz and Fry (2008), Bonta and Fry (2006), Melko (1973, 1984), and van der Dennen (1995). Three edited books of ethnographic case studies of nonviolent and peaceful cultures have also been published as well (Howell and Willis 1989, Montagu 1978, Sponsel and Gregor 1994). Most recently, Douglas Fry (2006, 2007) has systematically and vigorously argued with ample evidence for the human potential and actuality of nonviolence and peace.

Given this extensive documentation of nonviolent and peaceful socio-cultural systems, the only way that any author, scholar, or scientist can possibly assert that human nature is inherently murderous and warlike is by ignoring the ample evidence to the contrary from a multitude of diverse sources. Nevertheless, that fact has not prevented many from doing so as apologists for warfare (Barber 1996, Cannel and Macklin 1974, Ehrenreich 1998, Feibleman 1987, Ghiglieri 1987, 1999, Guilaine and Zammit 2001, Kaplan 1994, 2000, Keeley 1996, LeBlanc and Register 2003, Otterbein 1993, 1999, 2004, Smith 2007, and Wrangham and Peterson 1996). Either they have not adequately covered the documentation that is readily available in the published literature, or they just purposefully ignore other arguments and evidence that do not fit their own ideology, theory, arguments, advocacy, and so on. In either of these two instances, their science, scholarship, and writing is seriously deficient and suspect, to say the very least (Franfurt 2005, 2006). Yet the unproven assumption that human nature is inherently murderous and warlike still dominates the majority of publications by anthropologists and others to the nearly total exclusion of any serious and systematic attention to nonviolence and peace.

Most hunter-gatherer bands epitomize Paige’s attributes of a nonkilling society. They are grounded in an ethos of routine cooperation, reciprocity, and nonviolent conflict resolution as documented for the San and Mbuti of Africa, Semai of Malaysia, and many others (Bonta 1993, 1996, 2008, Dentan 1968, Fry 2006, 2007, Kelly 2000). Furthermore, for 99% of human existence, from more than two million to roughly 10,000 years ago, humans lived exclusively as hunter-gatherers (Hart and Sussman 2009, Kelly 2000, Lee and DeVore 1968, Shepard 1973). Accordingly, although captivating, William Golding’s (1999) novel Lord of the Flies which was originally published in 1954, and the ensuing two movies are not by any means accurate anthropologically as a reflection on human nature. A more recent variant on the Hobbesian theme is the film called “Apocalypto” which appears to have been made to insult the Mayan people.

With regard to nonlethal weapons and weapon-free societies (Paige 2002: 109, 113), it is important to note that weapons specifically designed for warfare do not appear archaeologically until very late in human prehistory, although tools employed in hunting such as a spear or a bow and arrow could easily be used to kill or injure another human being. The archaeological record does not evidence any regular warfare until relatively late in human prehistory (Ferguson 2002, 2006, Fry, 2006, 2007, Grossman 2008, Guilaine and Zammit 2001, Keegan 1993, Keeley 1996, Kelly 2000, LeBlanc and Register 2003).

Paige (2002: 101) refers to the 20th century as “the era of lethality.” Anthropology, with its unique combination of temporal depth and spatial breadth offers great hope in this regard, because such widespread lethality is an extremely recent aberration in human nature, judging by evidence from evolution and prehistory accumulated by archaeologists and evidence from the record of some 7,000 cultures in the world (ethnographies) and from cross-cultural comparisons (ethnology). Torture, terrorism, genocide, weapons of mass destruction, and the like are all relatively rare in the vats range of human experience (cf. Levinson 1994). The “era of lethality” endures for decades or so, not millennia or millions of years. However, structural violence in various forms and degrees is coincident with the origin of inequality (social stratification) which emerges most of all with civilization as the state level of sociopolitical organization and complexity (Bodley 2008a).

Actually warfare and the institution of the military are relatively recent inventions, as noted long ago by Margaret Mead (1940). There is relatively little evidence of warfare until the Neolithic some 10,000 years ago, depending on the region. The military as a social institution is mostly coincident with the evolution of the state around 5,000 years ago, depending on the region (Bodley 2008a, Fry 2006, 2007, Keegan 1993, Kelly 2000). Moreover, anyone who is a genuine evolutionist realizes that change is inevitable; thus, there is no reason to think that warfare and the institution of the military, not to mention other lethal aspects of humankind or a culture, are inevitable and eternal. Humanity as a whole cannot return to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, at least at the current level of world population and given economic dependence and preference (Shepard 1973). However, hunter-gatherers can provide heuristic models of the socio-cultural possibilities of a nonkilling society (Fry 2006, 2007, Kelly 2000).

Resource scarcity and the resulting competition may well lead to conflict, violence, and even warfare as many have asserted (Hastings 2000, Homer-Dixon, et al., 1993, Kaplan 1994, 2000, Klare 2001, 2002, Lanier-Graham 1993, Myers 1996, Renner 1996). But as Fredrik Barth (1956) demonstrated for three different ethnic groups in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, niche differentiation may be an alternative. They effectively reduced most direct competition by developing different foci for land and resource use as well as complementary trading relationships. However, this interethnic system was probably seriously disrupted by refugees from the successive Soviet and American invasions of Afghanistan.

The above are indisputable scientific facts, this in spite of the biased approaches, pseudoscience, and disinformation campaigns of a few anthropologists and others who have gained notoriety. Many anthropologists have been apologists for war, not only political scientists. Without meaning to denigrate the substantial contribution of anthropologists who have focused on studying warfare and other forms of aggression, such as Eller (1999, 2006), Ferguson (1995, 2007), Nordstrom (1997, 1998), clearly many others are in effect apologists for war (cf. Paige 2002:136). (For additional case studies, see compilations such as those by Fried, et al., 1968; Ferguson and Farragher 1988; Ferguson and Whitehead 1992; Ferguson 2003, and Nordstrom and Robben 1995). Since at least the 1960s the apologists for war pursue and even champion the pivotal assumption that humans are innately, instinctively, genetically, or biologically programmed to be aggressive, and, therefore, that war is an inevitable manifestation of human nature (Ardrey 1961, 1966, 1976, Chagnon 1992, Ghiglieri 1987, 1999, Keeley 1996, Lorenz 1966, Morris 1967, 1969, Otterbein 1993, 1999, 2004, 2008, Wrangham and Peterson 1996). Their absolutist, universalist, and essentialist posture conveniently ignores the contrary examples within our own species of Homo sapiens and, as will be discussed later, from our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, the chimpanzees (see Bonta 1993, 1996, Dennen 1995, Fry 2006, 2007, Howell and Willis 1989, Melko 1973, 1984, Montagu 1978, Sponsel 1996a, Sponsel and Gregor 1994).

Some of these apologists for warfare claim to have discovered extraordinarily violent and warlike societies, such as the Yanomami in the Brazilian and Venezuelan Amazon. However, the Yanomami, although not free from low levels and frequencies of some types of aggression do not pursue warfare by any meaningful definition of the term and are relatively nonviolent in their daily lives (Barash and Webel 2002, Gelvin 1994, Keegan 1993, Jeong 2000, Sanders 2008, Sponsel 1998, Stoessinger 2008). Chagnon (1968, 1992) stereotyped and stigmatized the Yanomami as the “fierce people,” and even after he dropped that designation as the subtitle of his famous (now infamous) book, his myopic fixation on aggression still exaggerated it to the point of being misleading (Good 1991, Sponsel 1998, 2006c). Chagnon exemplifies some anthropologists who have been so focused on the violent aspects of a society, often to the point of obsession, that they have provided a grossly distorted and problematic perspective, neglecting the far greater frequency of nonviolence and peace in the daily life of most people in the society.

It should also be noted that, even within relatively violent societies, most people are nonviolent in their own behavior (cf. Nordstrom 1997, 1998). Furthermore, there are individuals, groups, and subcultures that explicitly pursue nonviolence and pacifism such as the Amish. In addition, even in the midst of wars, such as the recent ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, there are medical doctors and other persons who are saving lives and reducing suffering instead of the opposite. Nevertheless, the prevalence of many forms of violence in American society and culture to the point of obsession in the media and elsewhere should be obvious, especially with inventories like that by Paige (2002). Transcending this phenomenon is as much a problem for science as for society as he discusses.

History provides examples of nation states such as Germany and Japan that have been transformed from a society frequently engaged in war to one pursuing peace. Costa Rica is an instructive example as well. This country abolished the military and invested its resources instead in life-enhancing activities. Cases like Costa Rica merit much greater recognition, documentation, and analysis by anthropologists and others (Biesanz, et al., 1982).

Among ethnographic cases, perhaps the most remarkable example of a rapid transformation from a killing to a nonkilling society is the Waorani of the Ecuadorian Amazon as amply documented by the Robarchek’s (1992, 1996, 1998a,b). Traditionally the Waorani were frequently involved in inter-group feuding. Through contact with American missionaries the Waorani imagined the possibilities of a nonviolent and peaceful society, they considered this to be far more attractive, and within a few decades the majority of the Waorani communities voluntarily changed. The Waorani demonstrate the plasticity and adaptability of human nature. Accordingly, they hold the promise for the possibility of other societies undergoing such a transformation, another case of an affirmative answer to Paige’s first question. Also it is noteworthy that many societies in Oceania and elsewhere which had traditionally engaged in some kind of warfare to some degree were rapidly pacified by Western colonial forces, albeit often through violent means (Bodley 2008b, Ferguson and Whitehead 1992, Rodman and Cooper 1979).

There are also societies which have courageously persisted in their pacifist commitment in the face of terrible violence. The Amish are pacifists, like the Brethren, Bruderhof, Hutterites, Mennonites, and Quakers. Americans and many in the rest of the world were shocked when a psychotic gunman shot to death five girls and wounded five others in an Amish one-room school in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, on October 2, 2006. Many people were impressed as well when representatives from the same Amish community attended the funeral of the gunman which police had killed in order to forgive and comfort his widow and children. The Amish did not respond to this horrific crime by initiating a cycle of blood revenge (Kraybill 2008, Kraybill, et al., 2006). This should have been a lesson to the larger world, and especially American society in general and its government. It has direct relevance to the aftermath of the terrible unjust tragedy of the 9-11 attacks. What if a similar Christian response had been pursued then? What if the federal government of the U.S.A. had responded to 9-11, not by military attack on Afghanistan, but instead capitalized on world sympathy and advocated concerted action by its leaders through the United Nations, Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization), and other nonviolent means? Whether or not this would have brought the surviving perpetrators of the 9-11 attacks to justice is uncertain. However, it is certain that U.S. militarism has not achieved that goal in the many years since 2001. Moreover, it is certain that in the interim hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, including women, children, and elderly, have been killed and injured, so-called collateral damage. Millions have been displaced as refugees internally and beyond their homeland in Afghanistan and Iraq. Billions of dollars have been sacrificed from constructive life-enhancing initiatives to promote nutrition, health, education, economy, and other things in the USA and elsewhere. As Mahatma Gandhi observed, an eye for an eye leads to blindness. All of the vast resources--- personnel, financial, institutional, technological, and so on--- of the Pentagon, State Department, C.I.A., and other U.S. federal government agencies failed to prevent 9-11. The time is long overdue to open the minds of government leaders and the populace regarding the nonkilling alternatives available for dispute resolution and conflict prevention (Barnes 2007, Bonta 1996, Fry and Bjorqvist 1997, Kemp and Fry 2004, Ury 1999, 2002).

Tibet also provides a particular case to illustrate several crucial points previously identified. During its long history, in spite of some episodes of violence, Tibet was transformed into a mostly nonviolent society. The spread of Buddhism was the seminal influence in this transformation. Today the power and wealth of Tibet are not military, political, and/or economic, but religious and cultural. That Tibetans have suffered terribly since the 1950 invasion and occupation by the Chinese with more than a million killed and thousands imprisoned and tortured to this day, and that more than 100,000 Tibetans have risk their lives in the Himalayan winter to flee to exile as political refugees in adjacent countries and beyond, does not diminish this power. Although initially there was militant resistance by some Tibetans to the Chinese invasion, subsequently under the leadership of His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama of Tibet, Tibetans appear to present the most outstanding case of a nonviolent response to violent invasion, occupation, and suppression. While this nonviolent approach has not liberated Tibet from Chinese imperialism, it has avoided far worse conflict and suffering by the Tibetans who are greatly outnumbered and outgunned by the Chinese. It may be only a matter of time before the situation improves significantly, although it could be decades or more before the central government of the People’s Republic of China promotes a more democratic society and moral civilization in the entire country. However, there is reason for optimism, given the religiosity, courage, and resilience of Tibetans. There is also some hope, given historical precedents like the expulsion of the British colonial empire from India, the dissolution of the apartheid system in South Africa, and the overthrow of the Ferdinand Marcos regime in the Philippines, all generated by the nonviolent actions of courageous and persistent leaders and commoners in the face of overwhelming lethal force. (For more on Tibet see Blondeau and Buffetrille 2008, Dalai Lama 1987, Kapstein 2006, Shakya 1999, Sperling 2004, Thurman 2008, and the official website of the Tibetan Government in Exile at

To go even deeper, into human nature, that is, while many biologists and psychologists might favor nature over nurture as the primary determinant and shaper of aggression, some have revealed strong evidence to the contrary. Of all of the species in the animal kingdom, the closest to humans are the common and pygmy chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes and P. paniscus, respectively. Only after many years of observations on a few social groups of the common chimpanzee at Gombe Stream Reserve in Tanzania did Jane Goodall and her research associates discover what they described as the rudiments of war (Goodall 1986, Wrangham and Peterson 1996, Ghiglieri 1987, 1999). However, Margaret Power (1991) and others have argued that this aggression may be influenced by external factors, at least in part, and especially by the primatologists provisioning the chimpanzees with bananas in order to bring them closer for more detailed observation.

In sharp contrast to some groups of the common chimpanzees, independent studies of the pygmy chimpanzees, also called bonobos, have not revealed comparable aggression either in the wild or in captive colonies. In fact, they are just the opposite. They seem to pursue behavior according to the motto make love and not war! Bonobos use a wide variety of sexual behaviors to avoid or reduce tensions within the group on a daily basis (Kano 1990, 1992, Waal 1989, 1996, 2006, Waal and Lating 1997). However, the “scientists” who favor the Hobbesian view of human nature, apparently have ideological blinders that channel them to emphasize violence to the near exclusion of nonviolence, stressing the common chimpanzees at Gombe and largely ignoring other common chimpanzee groups elsewhere where such behavior has not been observed. Also, they downplay the evidence of the peaceful bonobos. (Also, see Aureli and de Waal 2000, Harcourt and de Waal 1992, and Kohn 1990).

As a heuristic exercise, Leslie E. Sponsel (1996a) marshaled the arguments and evidence for the natural history of peace, pursuing just the opposite position from that of the apologists for war. The fields of biology, primate ethology, human ethology, human palaeontology, prehistoric archaeology, ethnography, and ethnology were surveyed. The basic conclusions were that: (1) although conflict is inevitable and common, violence is not; (2) human nature has the psychobiological potential to be either nonviolent/peaceful or violent/warlike; (3) nonviolence and peace appear to have prevailed in many prehistoric and pre-state societies; (4) war is not a cultural universal; and (5) the potential for the development of a more nonviolent and peaceful world is latent in human nature as revealed by the natural history of peace (Sponsel 1996a:114-115).

Douglas P. Fry (2006, 2007) elaborated this approach further in much greater detail. He observes that the “Man the Warrior” model asserts that war is ubiquitous in time and space, natural, normal, and inevitable. Fry asserts that this reflects a Western cultural bias that selectively focuses on certain kinds of evidence to the exclusion of contrary evidence. He observes that this Hobbesian model also stems from muddled thinking that confuses almost any kind of aggression such as homicide or blood feuding with warfare. Fry concludes that the “Man the Warrior” model is fantasy instead of fact. Moreover, he warns that this model is dangerous because it may contribute to policies of belligerent militarism as well as to inaction by peace advocates, if war is considered to be an inevitable manifestation of human nature. Fry argues that evolutionary pressures would select for restraint and for the ritualization of aggression to reduce harm as well as for alternatives in nonviolent conflict resolution because the costs of aggression can far exceed any possible benefits. He affirms that war can be eliminated in the 21st century by transcending the narrow, unrealistic, and culturally biased mentality of “Man the Warrior” and the associated belligerent militarism to replace it with an emphasis on extending nonviolent conflict management alternatives practiced within democratic nation states to an international system of world and regional cooperative governance and justice such as in the United Nations and the European Union.

Such studies are an independent and objective confirmation of the assertions in the UNESCO “Seville Statement on Violence” of May 16, 1986, cited by Paige (2002:39-40). (Also see Adams 1989). They affirm as well the statement in the charter of UNESCO; namely, that just as war begins in the minds of men, then so can peace (Barnaby 1988, They sustain Mead’s (1940) contention that war is only an invention, and that, as such, it can be transcended.

What is needed more than ever is a collaborative project to research nonviolence and peace in both theory and practice with a commitment, expert personnel, and adequate resources on a scale equivalent to the Manhattan Project of WWII. If that war effort was so important to the world, then why isn’t a peace effort even far more so? Modern warfare is simply much too expensive in terms of human deaths, injuries, and suffering as well as money, resources, and the environment (Andreas 2004, Cranna and Bhinda 1995, Hastings 2000, Lanier-Graham 1993, U.S. Army 2008). Indeed, war is rapidly becoming an unaffordable anachronism in the 21st century (cf. Younger 2007). Just consider the fact that a significant percentage of the American troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq are bringing the war home in the form of not only physical injuries, but also post-traumatic stress syndrome, substance abuse, domestic violence, homelessness, and even suicide. The expense of all of this--- medical, psychological, and social as well as economic--- will be long-term and immense (Grossman 1995, Hedges and Al-Arian 2007, McNair 2002). (Also see “Iraq Body Count” at Incidentally, the facts that soldiers have to be trained to injure and kill other human beings, and that many of those who do so often suffer serious emotional problems that may endure over many years, are yet another line of evidence invalidating the Hobbesian myth of dismal human nature. (Also see

As in political science (Paige 2002: 74), likewise in anthropology, authors who have dared to consider the possibilities of nonviolence and peace have been variously accused, stigmatized, and dismissed as unrealistic, idealistic, romantic, or utopian dreamers (Otterbein 1999, Sponsel 1990, 1992, 2000b, 2005). But such feeble attempts at a counter argument are not sustainable in the face of the wealth of scientific evidence that has been rapidly accumulating since the 1970s.

In summary, although anthropology certainly has its limitations, it offers a far broader temporal and spatial perspective than that of political science which tends to be constrained by its focus on the governments and politics of historic and contemporary nation states (Barash and Webel 2002, Jeong 2000). Anthropology offers not only an affirmative answer to Paige’s first question, but also amplification and substantiation based on numerous and diverse well-documented cases in the real world. Paige discusses how individuals in different contexts from different professions or disciplines and countries answer his elemental question. No doubt he would also find a variety of responses to this question if he were to ask individuals in societies like the Amish, Semai, Tibetans, Waorani, and Yanomami. Hopefully, future anthropological researchers may do just that.

Nonkilling Anthropology[edit | edit source]

What are the possibilities for a nonkilling anthropology? At first glance, probably most anthropologists would be puzzled to consider the idea of either a killing anthropology or a nonkilling anthropology. However, consider this logic: either you are part of the solution or a part of the problem, there is no space for neutrality. For example, if you witness a person who is apparently being beaten to death and do nothing to intervene, such as call for anyone nearby to help and telephone the police, then aren’t you complicit in murder to some degree? Similarly, if you are an anthropologist in a killing society and do nothing to intervene in any way, then are you not complicit in the killing to some degree? Moreover, even from an egocentric perspective, it might be argued that ignoring the human suffering caused directly and indirectly by a killing society, diminishes one’s own humanity and increases one’s own suffering, because we are all interconnected and interdependent (cf. Dalai Lama 1999). Such considerations may stimulate some to contemplate the possibilities of a killing anthropology and a nonkilling anthropology.

Answering Paige’s second question is much more difficult than answering the first one because it requires thinking more “outside of the box” since much of anthropology supports, indirectly if not directly, and inadvertently if not intentionally, the military-industrial-media-academic complex. To be blunt, the modern war-making machine’s main effect, if not primary purpose, is usually to generate death, destruction, and suffering, as, for example, in the March 2003 U.S. “shock and awe ” bombing campaign over the city of Baghdad. At the same time, it should be mentioned that I respect those in the military who serve honorably and even place themselves in harm’s way; however, I respect even more highly someone like the courageous First Lieutenant Ehren Watada who refuses to serve in an unjust Iraq War in spite of tremendous institutional, social, and legal pressures to conform ( Another difficulty with the nonkilling aspects of anthropology is that they are so diffuse that a special effort is required to identify and explicate them. Furthermore, much of what would help generate a nonkilling anthropology is at the early stage of critical analysis and focused on the military as an institution, its origin, evolution, structure, functions, beliefs, values, symbols, rituals, customs, and practices, rather than on positive alternatives, such as the interrelated human rights and peace movements and organizations throughout the world.

In recent decades, an increasing number of publications have critically analyzed in historical perspective the relationships between anthropology and war since colonial times to the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, this endeavor not to be confused with the anthropological study of war as such. (See Ben-Ari 2004, de Wolf 1992, Frese and Harrell 2003, Goldschmidt 1979, Gordon 1988, Gough 1968, Gusterson 1996, 2003, 2007, Hickey 2003, Hinsley 1979, Hymes 1999, Jell-Bahlsen 1985, Mabee 1987, Neel 1994, Patterson 2001, Penny and Bunzl 2003, Price 2008, Schaft 2004, Simons 1997, 1999, Starn 1986, Stauder 1999, Suzuki 1986, Wakin 1992, Williams 1986). Among other influences, pursuit of this subject reflects the correlated development since the 1960s of a code of professional ethics for anthropologists emphasizing the primary ethical principle of do no harm. That code was largely stimulated by the reaction to covert counter-insurgency research by anthropologists in Thailand during the American war in Vietnam and adjacent countries, although its roots are deeper in time and broader in experience (Fluehr-Lobban 2002, 2003, Hymes 1999, Whiteford and Trotter 2008, Wakin 1992).

At the same time, some anthropologists have been pacifists, like Edward B. Tylor and Franz Boas, although rarely does this surface in their research and publications. It was not until the 1960’s, and in connection with the Vietnam War in particular, that a variant of what might be called nonkilling anthropology began to develop. Perhaps more than any other single anthropologist before or since, Ashley Montagu as a prominent public scientist pioneered the groundwork for a nonkilling anthropology through many of his publications addressing nonviolence and peace as well as violence including even structural violence (racism, sexism, ageism) (Lieberman, et al., 1995, Montagu 1968, 1972, 1989, 1998, Sponsel 2006b, cf. Paige 2002:97). He rigorously challenged the idea that there is any biological basis for racial superiority, distinguishing between biological and social ideas about race (Montagu 1998). Montagu (1972) was one of the leaders in the development of the UNECO Statement on Race. Likewise, he critically analyzed and dismissed the Hobbesian view of human nature (Montagu 1976). He edited the first anthology documenting nonviolent and peaceful societies (Montagu 1978). Montagu and Matson (1983) scrutinized dehumanization as a tactic facilitating violence toward “the other” (Hinton 2001, Staub 1989). More recently, several other pioneers laying the groundwork for a nonkilling anthropology stand out in various ways, including Baszarkiewicz and Fry (2008), Bodley (2008a,b), Bonta (1993, 1996, 1997), Dentan (1968), Ferguson (1995, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008), Fry (2006, 2007), Gonzalez (2004), Graebner (2004), Gusterson (1996, 2003, 2007), Hymes (1999), Kyron and Rubenstein (2008), Lutz (2001, 2002), Nordstrom (1997, 1998), Nordstrom and Robben (1995), Price (2004, 2008), Sanders (2008), Sluka (2000), Sponsel (1994a,b, c, 1996a,b,c, 1997a,b, 2000b, 2006b), Sponsel and Good (2000), and Strathern and Stewart (2008).

Recently, the U.S. military initiated the special program called the Human Terrain System (HTS) that embeds anthropologists and other social scientists with troops on the ground in conflict zones in Afghanistan, Iraq, and probably elsewhere as well. The main purpose appears to be to enhance the cultural information and understanding of the soldiers in order to help make their operations more effective (Kipp, et al., 2007, McFate 2005a,b, Renzi 2006, Sewall, et al., 2007). It is claimed that HTS reduces conflict, saves lives, and may shorten the wars; however, so far these assertions have not been proven. One HTS anthropologist, Marcus Griffin, even maintains a website from Iraq (

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) is the major professional organization of anthropologists in the USA, with a membership of well over 10,000. Its executive officers charged a special commission with investigating the role of anthropologists in the HTS (AAA ad Hoc Committee on the Engagement of Anthropology with US Security and Intelligence Communities or CEAUSSIC). The results of their inquiry were summarized in an Executive Board Statement on October 31, 2007. Their 62-page Final Report was posted on November 4, 2007. The main conclusion is that anthropologists involved in HTS may compromise or violate the principles in the 1998 AAA Code of Ethics in various ways. They may not be ably to openly disclose their purpose, obtain voluntary consent from informants, and their information may be used by the military in ways that harm their informants and/or others in their community. Another concern was that anthropologists working anywhere in the world might be mistakenly identified as associated with the U.S. military and/or HTS and thereby their personal safety might be placed at risk ( In addition, a number of prominent anthropologists have been very critical of HTS, among them Roberto J. Gonzalez (2007, 2008), Hugh Gusterson (2003, 2007), and David H. Price (2000, 2007, An organization was also formed among such critics called the Network of Concerned Anthropologists ( (Also see Ferguson 1988, Fluehr-Lobban 2002, 2003, Glazer 1996, Whitehead and Trotter 2008)

There is no doubt that anthropology can be relevant in facilitating cross-cultural understanding and communication as, for example, in the pioneering research by Edward T. Hall (1990) on proxemics (spatial relationships). The main problem is the ends to which anthropology is a means--- causing harm or promoting welfare, violence or nonviolence, war or peace, militarism or pacifism, and so on. As part of the creative challenge of a nonkilling anthropology it is imperative to imagine the practical possibilities of a nonviolent alternative to HTS. For example, some anthropologists might have less concern if the field anthropologists were engaged with the U.S. Department of State instead of the Department of Defense, but that would also depend on current government policies. For instance, by now it is widely recognized in the U.S.A. and worldwide that many of the policies of President George W. Bush’s administration have been disastrous, to say the least (Carter 2005, Chomsky 2001, Gore 2007, Govier 2002, Singer 2004, Wright and Dixon 2008).

In thinking through Paige’s Chapter 3, one of the challenges is that anthropologists usually focus on culture and community, whereas political scientists tend to focus on power and polity, especially in the context of the nation state. However, anthropology also deals with many subjects basic to political science such as human nature, the origin of the state as civilization, and the emergence and maintenance of social inequality. In any case, thinking through the relevance of this chapter for anthropology has the potential to transform the discipline, if not even to revolutionize it. In the first paragraph of Chapter 3, Paige poses several questions about political science that can be pursued through anthropology as well as other disciplines. For example, his third question asks what values would inspire and guide the work? His sixth question asks what uses of knowledge would we facilitate? These two questions were previously answered in another context by the present author who pointed to the various United Nations declarations and conventions on human rights as a framework for developing anthropological thinking and actions (Sponsel 1994a, 1995:277-278, 1996b,c, 1997a,b, 2001). Before and since then, many other anthropologists have conducted research on human rights theory and practice (Bell, et al., 2001, Downing and Kushner 1988, Messer 1993, Nagengast and Turner 1997, Nagengast and Velez-Ibanez 2004). Anthropologists have also addressed the important issue of universal human rights versus cultural relativism mentioned by Paige (2002: 117). (See Bell, et al., 2001, Herskovits 1972, Nagengast and Turner 1997). Three tasks for applied science that Paige (2002:104) identifies are prevention, intervention, and post-traumatic nonkilling transformations, and each of these can be pursued through various forms of applied anthropology (e.g., Rubenstein 2008). Articulating teaching, research, and service with human rights, even just in a general way as a conceptual framework, can generate more social meaning and significance in the anthropological endeavor.

For the professional training of nonkilling anthropologists, the curriculum and the pedagogy would need to be substantially changed, if not revolutionized (cf. Paige 2002: 127-129). The curriculum would need to be reoriented from a structure around standard courses on subfields, topics, areas, and methods to one more explicitly focused on the important problems and issues of contemporary society and the world. It would have to emphasize aspects of nonviolence and peace, although not to the exclusion of also considering violence and war. These are among some possibilities for a curriculum:

  • Unity and Diversity of Humankind
  • Professional Values and Ethics in Anthropology
  • History of Anthropology from War to Peace
  • History of Colonial and Development Anthropology
  • Anthropology of Colonialism and Neocolonialism
  • Cultural Evolution, Change, and Revolution
  • Anthropology of Violence and War
  • Anthropology of Nonviolence and Peace
  • Science, Technology, and Economics as if People Mattered
  • Quality of Life: Environment, Water, Food, and Health
  • Anthropology of Environmentalism, Environment, and Gaia
  • Comparative Religion: Worldviews, Values, and Spiritual Ecology
  • Alternative Political and Legal Systems
  • Culture in Conflict Management and Resolution
  • Problems and Solutions in Applied Anthropology
  • Human Rights and Advocacy Anthropology
  • Collaborative Ethnographic Methods

Each of these courses would address as feasible Paige’s (2002:72-74) four principles of logical analysis (see below). (Also see McKenna 2008 and Smith 1999). Although some of these courses mirror traditional ones, the focus would be changed significantly. For example, the orientation of a course on Alternative Political and Legal Systems, formerly political and legal anthropology, would shift to themes such as the mechanisms of nonviolent dispute resolution traditionally practiced by hunter-gatherer cultures (Avruch 1998, Bonta 1996, Bonta and Fry 2006, Fry and Bjorkqvist 1997, Greenhouse 1985, Kemp and Fry 2004, Rubinstein 2008, Wolfe and Yang 1996).

The faculty would be dedicated as much to teaching and service as to research, genuinely recognizing and rewarding the significance of all three. They would be engaged in cooperative rather than competitive activities aimed at applying their science to understanding and helping to resolve practical problems and issues, rather than advancing egocentric career trajectories by pursuing the latest academic fashions and theoretical fantasies. Accordingly, overall there would be a shift in emphasis, albeit not exclusively, from basic to applied aspects of anthropology (Barker 2004, Fry and Borquist 1997, Gwynne 2003, Johnston 2007, Johnston and Barker 2008, Kemp and Fry 2004, Paine 1985, Sponsel 2001, and Ury 1999, 2004).

At the same time, there are economic obstacles to be overcome. For example, at the University of Hawai`i, in spite of near unanimous opposition from faculty and students, some top administrators and a few researchers in the physical sciences recently embraced a 5-year contract for $50,000,000 from the U.S. Navy for the development of a University Applied Research Center. At the same time, it is simply inconceivable that even a fraction of that amount would ever be invested in the annual budget of the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace at the University of Hawai`i ( Such are the priorities in a killing society and in the most militarized state in the union (Blanco 2009, Kajihiro 2007, War remains more profitable than peace. As General Dwight Eisenhower also warned in his farewell presidential speech to the nation on January 17, 1961: “The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.” (See Feldman 1989, Giroux 2007, and Simpson 1998).

Likewise, within the professional organization of the American Anthropological Association and others, the structures and priorities would have to change radically. For example, within the AAA the Committee on Ethics and the Committee for Human Rights would have to be given top priority with corresponding financial and other resources. The themes of the annual conventions would have to place far greater emphasis on the more applied aspects of anthropology. Current priorities are crystal clear. For instance, the topical index of key words from sessions at the 2008 annual convention of the AAA lists ten sessions on violence and eight on war, but only one on peace and none on nonviolence. On the other hand, it lists nine sessions on human rights and a dozen on ethics which is more positive, a much large number than prior to the 1990’s (AAA 2008). Incidentally, the AAA is not atypical in this respect. As another example, the second edition of the multidisciplinary Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, and Conflict (Kurtz, 2008) contains 289 entries, but only ten (3.5%) with nonviolence and 29 (10%) with peace in their titles, although these topics may receive some attention in articles without these words in their titles.

Many of the phenomena that Paige (2002:133) worries about were not problems until the evolution of the state, and especially modern nations, so they are very recent (Nagengast 1994). Contemporary issues include abortion, capital punishment, conscription, war, armed revolution, terrorism, genocide, criminality, social violence, disarmament, and economic demilitarization (Paige 2002:133, cf. Levinson 1994). According to Paige (2002: 111-112), five problems that are globally salient are: continued killing and the need for disarmament, poverty and the need for economic equality, violations of human rights and the need for greater respect for human dignity and human rights, destruction of nature, and other-denying divisiveness that impedes problem-solving cooperation. (See Donnelly 2003, Mahoney 2007). In one way or another, anthropologists have been addressing these and related matters to varying degrees. Indeed, there are many books on each of these subjects, but if any one might be singled out, including as a possible textbook, then it would be Anthropology and Contemporary Human Problems by John H. Bodley (2008a).

Paige concludes Chapter 3 by inviting “… thought about what political science would be like if it took seriously the possibility of realizing nonkilling societies in a nonkilling world.” He goes on to write that “Acceptance of such a possibility implies active political science engagement in nonviolent global problem-solving” (Paige 2002: 97). This is certainly a provocative question for anthropology as well. Applied, advocacy, action, public, and engaged are various qualifiers associated with anthropology that deals with practical problem solving in promoting human survival, welfare, justice, dignity, and rights in various ways and degrees (Barker 2004, Besteman and Gusterson 2005, Eriksen 2006, Gonzalez 2004, Gwynne 2003, Hinton 2001, Johnston 1994, 1997, 2007, Johnston and Barker 2008). Already many anthropologists are contributing to the development of a nonkilling society and nonkilling world, although not exactly with those terms in mind. Still there is enormous potential for further work in this regard. However, a major obstacle is that often such practical work is not considered to be as prestigious or valuable as basic research, as for example, in the assessment for tenure and promotion of academic faculty at universities and colleges, and especially among those who are still under the illusion that science is apolitical and amoral (cf. Giroux 2007).

The framework and questions for research and praxis that Paige develops so boldly and profoundly in his book and other work opens up an entire new world of exciting and promising possibilities for anthropological research, teaching, and service with potentially far reaching practical consequences. His pursuit of a medical model for the sciences, humanities, and other professions pivoting around a central concern for saving lives, reducing suffering, and promoting well being calls for a paradigm shift, if not even a revolution. While he emphasizes nonkilling, ultimately this transcends stopping the negative--- lethality, to also advance the positive--- protection and enhancement of the quality of life. In the present author’s opinion, the subject of human rights provides the conceptual and practical framework for such a noble endeavor.

Discussion[edit | edit source]

Paige challenges the prevailing assumption that (1) killing is an inescapable or inevitable part of human nature or of the human condition, and the corollary that (2) it must be accepted in political theory and practice as well as elsewhere. He implies that this assumption stems from the long history of American warfare and militarism by citing numerous examples (Paige 2002:7-8). Even more revealing and disturbing are the more detailed historical inventories of these aggressive activities in sources such as by Andreas (2004) and Churchill (2003). Thus, a systemic bias toward violence including war appears to be a product of Western and especially American history and culture (Duclos 1997, Hofstadter and Wallace 1971, Keegan 1993, Lewis 2006, Palmer 1972, Sponsel 1994a, 1996a,). The U.S.A. is grounded in the invasion and conquest of the continent by European colonial displacement or compulsory relocation, forced assimilation and acculturation, and downright ethnocide and genocide of a multitude of indigenous societies (Bodley 2008b, Churchill 1997, Diamond 1999, Ferguson and Whitehead 1992, Jaimes 1992, Kroeber 1961, Patterson 2001, Starkey 1998, Steele 1994). Another factor is the militarism and warfare that permeates U.S. history (Andreas 2004, Churchill 2003, Hedges 2002, Hillman 2004, Ury 2002). Since at least WWII, the Hobbesian view of human nature has been increasingly reinforced by the development of the industrial-military complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned about in his farewell speech to the nation. Moreover, subsequent developments have resulted in an industrial-military-media-academic complex that infiltrates American society like a cancer, and with the most rapid and penetrating growth during the presidential administration of George W. Bush as part of the post-911 paranoia it helped to create and maintain. Thus, for instance, for several years Americans were kept terrified with a system of periodic color coded alerts and other tactics that helped generate the lucrative profits of the weapons, military, and security industries since 9-11. The interconnected weapons and oil industries are not only the most profitable ones in the world along with illegal drugs, but also the most powerful politically as well as economically (Andreas 2004). Accordingly, it is most sad to say that peace is likely to emerge and prevail globally only when it becomes more profitable than war.

American anthropologists who stress a Hobbesian view of human nature may be culturally as well as ideologically biased (Clark 2002, Curti 1980). On the one hand not all American anthropologists share the ideology that encompasses the Hobbesian view (Kegley and Raymond 1999:20-21, 245, Patterson 2001). On the other hand, to some degree all American anthropologists share the same generic culture. In anthropology, the common assumption about dismal human nature and the inevitability of war and other forms of aggression appears to still prevail. For instance, this is reflected in the fact that there are many more books on violence and war than on nonviolence and peace, whether general surveys or particular case studies. Those on nonviolence and peace number about a dozen, whereas there are many times more that number on violence and war (Ferguson and Farragher 1988, Sponsel 1994a,b, 1996a,c, Wiberg 1981). Members of the American Anthropological Association may list their specializations in a special online directory. The specializations available for listing in the AAA form include conflict, conflict resolution, ethnic conflict, violence, and warfare, but revealingly, neither nonviolence nor peace are listed.

The idea of human nature also needs to be problematized (Cannel and Macklin 1974, Curti 1980, Sponsel 2007, Stevenson and Haberman 1998). Logically, human nature may or may not exist, it may be uniform or multifarious, it may good or bad, and so on. For example, some anthropologists would argue that there is no single, uniform human nature; instead, there are numerous human natures as expressed in the diversity of some seven thousand different cultures extant in the world today. From such a perspective, human nature is manifest in cultural diversity and is generated by nurture (social environment) instead of nature (genetics). Human nature is tremendously plastic and adaptable as well as diverse, the latter the expression of the former two attributes (Sponsel 2007). Thus, many anthropologists would see cultural relativism as their primary disciplinary value, while some extreme cultural relativists would even dispute the existence of any meaningful cross-cultural universals common to all of humanity (Brown 1991, Herskovits 1972). Furthermore, within science and academia, there are many different theories of human nature (Cannel and Macklin 1974, Curti 1980, Feibleman 1987, Stevenson and Haberman 1998). Likewise, each of the world’s religions has a somewhat different concept of human nature distinctive to their own worldview (Matthews 2004). This diversity itself undermines the assumptions of a single, uniform human nature, and of the inevitably of violence and war in spite of the reductionistic and simplistic speculations of the apologists for war.

As a political scientist concerned with international relations, Paige tends to focus on the modern nation state. Anthropology also problematizes this focus because the state is actually a relatively recent invention and could well be a transitory stage of political organization in cultural evolution (cf. Ferguson 2003, Nagengast 1994). As conceived by anthropologists, the state is basically coincident with civilization and only about 5,000 years old, depending on the region. Actually 99% of human existence from origins dating back to at least two million years ago was dominated exclusively by hunting-gathering lifestyles. If there is anything universal in human culture and/or such a thing as human nature, then most likely it is a result of this hunter-gatherer legacy (Lee and DeVore 1968, Shepard 1973). Moreover, the overwhelming majority of hunter-gatherer societies are mostly egalitarian, cooperative, nonviolent, and peaceful, as demonstrated by evidence from archaeology, ethnohistory, ethnography, and ethnology, this notwithstanding the contrary opinions of the apologists for warfare.

As a political scientist, Paige considers power to be pivotal in society and in his discipline, and power is political with economics, religion, and other factors secondary. The parallel focus in anthropology is culture. Culture is pivotal in society and in the discipline. However, both of these are only partial considerations, albeit very important ones. Particular circumstances can be decisive. For instance, in the case of Tibet as previously discussed, Buddhism as a religion is pivotal, and the power of the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader is primary and even in exile. Given the relationship of Tibetans with China and other countries, these factors also become political, but that is secondary, even though it is often difficult to consider the religious and political as separate in this case, especially given Tibet’s history since the Chinese invasion and occupation. Similarly, in the case of the Middle East, religion is a tremendous influence; it is not simply a matter of secular politics. Indeed, in Islam, politics is subordinated to religion. It is impossible to understand the Middle East purely in secular terms (Eickelman 2002, Eickelman and Piscatori 1996, Esposito and Mogahed 2007, Khan 2006).

Paige is challenging not only the inevitability of violence, but also its efficacy and legitimacy. A nonkilling anthropology would reject these tenets as well. However, legitimacy invokes normative considerations, and some might reject this by claiming that science must be amoral as well as apolitical to maintain neutrality for the sake of objectivity. But, that is an illusion. To take an extreme case, the Manhattan project was grounded in hard science. Yet Paige (2002:81) notes that 19 out of 150 scientists on the Manhattan Project voted against any military use of the atomic bombs. Personally, the present author does not see any difference during WWII in incinerating Jews in the Nazi concentration camps and in incinerating Japanese in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both are absolutely immoral. Furthermore, the scientists who made these atrocities possible cannot be considered amoral and apolitical. Indeed, they can be considered complicit in such crimes against humanity (cf. Christopher 1999).

Postmodernists have called into question the assertion that science is neutral, objective, apolitical, amoral, and the like. As an example, in the controversy over the scandalous behavior of some researchers working with the Yanomami generated by the publication of the book Darkness in El Dorado by investigative journalist Patrick Tierney (2000), some of those who portrayed themselves as scientists clearly exhibited behavior that was just the opposite of scientific, lacking in objectivity, rife in political ideology, and downright unethical and immoral (Borofsky 2005, Fluehr-Lobban 2003, Gregor and Gross 2004, Gross 2004, Robin 2004, Sponsel 2006a, Sponsel and Turner 2002, Tierney 2000). The larger hidden agenda of many of the negative responses to Tierney was to try to invalidate a penetrating critic of one example of Cold War anthropological research (also see Neel 1994, Price 2008, Wax 2008).

The above are some of my reservations, qualifications, and elaborations regarding Paige’s book and thesis. At the same time, what he has to say is obviously extremely important, and increasingly so, given the so-called global war on terrorism, the dire problems of globalization, the developing consequences of global warming with all of its widespread and profound impacts on society and the environment, and the increasing militarization of the planet including its infiltration of scientific and academic institutions (Giroux 2007). These are all interrelated and acting in synergy to the point of being not only alarming, but potentially catastrophic, to say the least.

Consequently, the time is not only most propitious, but also most urgent to consider the possibilities of a nonkilling society at every level – family, community, national, international, and global. Paige’s four-component logical analysis is most valid and useful; namely, to consider the conditions, processes, and consequences of (1) a killing society, (2) a nonkilling society, (3) the transition from a nonkilling to a killing society, and (4) the transition from a killing to a nonkilling society. Tibet could be a very revealing case study for illuminating these four components. In various ways anthropology offers evidence and insights that are very relevant to all four of these components, ranging from the earlier work of Franz Boas, Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, and Ashley Montagu, and others to the most recent work of pioneers previously mentioned.

Finally, Paige (2002:143) asserts that: “Every political scientist and each person can be a center for global nonviolence to facilitate transition to a nonkilling world.” More anthropologists need to become such a center. In 1993, I was privileged to participate in a small multidisciplinary conference titled “What We Know About Peace” in Charleston, South Carolina, sponsored by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation (Gregor 1996). However, I quickly became very disappointed and even disillusioned when it became clear that almost all of the participants were actually talking about war instead of peace. One participant even went to the extreme of asserting that peace is the presence of war (Tuzin 1996:3). Thank you, Glenn Paige, for opening some minds to the social and scientific possibilities of nonviolence and peace.

Final Remarks[edit | edit source]

Glenn Paige (2002) has dared to ask the very profound and provocative primary question: Is a nonkilling society possible? From my perspective as an anthropologist who has paid some attention to anthropological aspects of peace and nonviolence, and not only war and violence, unlike most colleagues, I find the answer to this question quite simple. A nonkilling society is not only possible to conceive of theoretically, such societies exist in reality as revealed by the overwhelming evidence from archaeology, ethnohistory, history, ethnography, and ethnology. Thus, nonviolence is an actuality, not merely a possibility. Nonviolence and peace are scientific facts; the evidence is overwhelming and undeniable, as alluded to in this essay and sustained by the accumulating documentation, such as Bonta’s website. The time is long overdue to systematically make this explicit and pursue it in every constructive way possible to create a nonviolent and life-enhancing society for the realization of the human potential for freedom, justice, peace, harmony, and creativity. Anthropology has an important role to play in such a noble and vital endeavor, if only more anthropologists can open their minds to the revolutionary possibilities of a nonkilling society and a nonkilling anthropology.

Bibliography and Further Reading[edit | edit source]

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American Anthropological Association (AAA)

American Anthropological Association, 2008, Program American Anthropological Association 107th Annual Meeting, November 19-23, 2008, San Francisco, California, Arlington, VA: AAA.

Andreas, Joel, 2004, Addicted to War: Why Can’t the U.S. Kick Militarism, Oakland, CA: AK Press (

Ardrey, Robert, 1961, African Genesis: A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins and Nature of Man, New York, NY: Atheneum.

_____, 1966, The Territorial Imperative: A Personal Inquiry into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations, New York, NY: Atheneum.

_____, 1976, The Hunting Hypothesis: A Personal Conclusion Concerning the Evolutionary Nature of Man, New York, NY: Atheneum.

Aureli, Filippo, and Frans B.M. de Waal, eds., 2000, Natural Conflict Resolution, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Avruch, Kevin, 1998, Culture and Conflict Resolution, Washington, D.C.: Institute of Peace Press.

Barash, David P., and Charles P. Webel, 2002, Peace and Conflict Studies, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Barber, Benjamin R., 1996, Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World, New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Barker, Holly M., 2004, Bravo for the Marshallese: Regaining Control in a Post-Nuclear, Post-Colonial World, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.

Barnaby, Frank, ed., 1988, The Gaia Peace Atlas, NY: Doubleday.

Barnes, Bruce E., 2007, Culture, Conflict, and Mediation in the Asian Pacific, Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

Barth, Fredrik, 1956, “Ecological Relationships of Ethnic Groups in Swat, North Pakistan,” American Anthropologist 58:1079-1089.

Baszarkiewicz, Karolina, and Douglas P. Fry, 2008, “Peaceful Societies,” Lester Kurtz, Editor-in-Chief, Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, & Conflict, San Diego, CA: Elsevier 2:1557-1570.

Bell, Lynda S., Andrew J. Nathan, and Ilan Peleg, eds., 2001, Negotiating Culture and Human Rights, New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Ben-Ari, Eyal, 2004 (August), “The Military and Militarization in the United States,” American Ethnologist 31(3):340-348.

Besteman, Catherine, and Hugh Gusterson, eds., 2005, Why America’s Top Pundits Are Wrong: Anthropologists Talk Back, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Bhaneja, Balwant, 2008, “Nonkilling Political Science,” Lester Kurtz, Editor-in-Chief, Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, & Conflict, San Diego, CA: Elsevier 2:1356-1363.

Biesanz, Richard, Karen Zubris Biesanz, and Mavis Hitunen Biesanz, 1982, The Costa Ricans, Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.

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_____ 2008b, Victims of Progress, Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press.

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____, 1996, “Conflict Resolution Among Peaceful Societies: The Culture of Peacefulness,” Journal of Peace Research 33:403-420.

_____, 1997, “Cooperation and Competition in Peaceful Societies,” Psychological Bulletin 121:299-320.

_____, 2008, “Peaceful Societies: Alternatives to Violence and War,”

Bonta, Bruce D., and Douglas P. Fry, 2006, “Lessons for the Rest of Us: Learning from Peaceful Societies,” The Psychology of Resolving Global Conflicts: From War to Peace, M. Fitzduff and C.E. Stout, eds., Westport, CT: Praeger 1:175-210.

Borofsky, Robert, ed., 2005, Yanomami: The Fierce Controversy and What We Can Learn From It, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Brown, Donald E., 1991, Human Universals, New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, Inc.

Cannel, Ward, and June Macklin, 1974, The Human Nature Industry: How Human Nature is Manufactured, Distributed, and Consumed in the United States and parts of Canada, Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday.

Carter, Jimmy, 2005, Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis, New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Center for Global Nonviolence, Glenn D. Paige

Chagnon, Napoleon A., 1968, Yanomamo: The Fierce People, New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

______, 1992, Yanomamo, Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (Fourth Edition).

Chomsky, Noam, 2001, 9-11, New York, NY: Seven Stories Press.

Christopher, Paul, 1999, The Ethics of War and Peace: An Introduction to Moral and Legal Issues, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Churchill, Ward, 1997, A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas 1492 to the Present, San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books.

_____, 2003, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality, Oakland, CA: AK Press.

Clark, Mary E., 2002, In Search of Human Nature, New York, NY: Routledge.

Cranna, Michael, and Nils Bhinda, 1995, The True Cost of Conflict: Seven Recent Wars and Their Effects on Society, New York, NY: New Press.

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Dalai Lama, His Holiness the XIVth, 1987, The Buddhism of Tibet, Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications.

_____, 1999, Ethics for the New Millennium, New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

Dawson, Michael, 2006, Growing Up Yanomamo, Enumclaw, WA: WinePress Publishing.

Dennen, J.M.G. van der, 1995, The Origin of War, Groningen, The Netherlands: Origin Press.

Dentan, Robert K., 1968, The Semai: A Nonviolent People of Malaya, New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Diamond, Jared, 1999, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

DMZ Hawai`i

Donnelly, Jack, 2003, Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press (Second Edition).

Downing, Theodore E., and Gilbert Kushner, eds., 1988, Human Rights and Anthropology, Cambridge, MA: Cultural Survival.

Duclos, Dennis, 1997, The Werewolf Complex: America’s Fascination with Violence, New York, NY: Berg.

Ehlers, Tracy Bachrach, 1980, “Central America in the 1980’s: Political Crisis and the Social Responsibility of Anthropologists,” Latin American Research Review XXV(3):141-155.

Ehrenreich, Barbara, 1998, Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions for War, New York, NY: Holt.

Eickelman, Dale F., 2002, The Middle East and Central Asia: An Anthropological Approach, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

_____, and James Piscatori, 1996, Muslim Politics, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Eller, Jack David, 1999, From Culture to Ethnicity to Conflict: An Anthropological Perspective on International Ethnic Conflict, Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

_____, 2006, Violence and Culture: A Cross-Cultural and Interdisciplinary Approach, Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education.

Eriksen, Thomas Hylland, 2006, Engaging Anthropology: The Case for a Public Presence, New York, NY: Berg.

Esposito, John L., and Dalia Mogahed, 2007, Who Speaks for Islam?: What A Billion Muslims Really Think, New York, NY: Gallup Press.

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Feibleman, James Kern, 1987, The Destroyers: The Underside of Human Nature, New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Feldman, Jonathan, 1989, Universities in the Business of Repression: The Academic-Military-Industrial Complex and Central America, Boston, MA: South End Press.

Ferguson, R. Brian, 1988, “Anthropology and War: Theory, Politics, Ethics,” The Anthropology of War and Peace: Perspectives on the Nuclear Age, Paul R. Turner and David Pitt, eds., Cambridge, MA: Bergin and Garvey Publishers, Inc., pp. 141-159.

_____, 1992, “Tribal Warfare,” Scientific American 266(1):108-113.

_____, 1995, Yanomami Warfare: A Political History, Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press.

_____, 2002, “The `Violent’ Human: Archaeological and Historical Evidence,” Must We Fight? From the Battlefield to the Schoolyard--- A New Perspective on Violent Conflict and Its Preservation, William Ury, ed., San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, pp. 26-38.

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