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Anthropology of War Questions

  1. Feb 14, 2006 #1
    I have several questions.

    1. Religion along with conflict over natural resources causes a lot of war from what I have learned about history. (Religion influences politics etc) Are there cultures that had ritual wars for religious reasons? I thought that some of the early Meso-american cultures like the Mayans, the Olmecs, and the Aztecs did this.....and possibly some tribes in Africa....

    2. Is ritual warfare less violent than war for other reasons? For some reason folk psychology makes me think so, but I could be mistaken.

    3. Evolutionary psychologists postulate that one of the reasons for war is to gain access to women (not saying I completely buy that)...and rape is prevalent during warfare....is this because people's adrenaline is pumping just making them more prone to violence because all they see is violence around them? Or is there something deeper, like in-group and out-group dynamics? In other species foreign males will accost females in an attack whether it be dolphins or apes.
    I am personally inclined to think that rape during wartime happens because males see the enemy's women as part of the out-group and raping them is more of a power thing...like the women are a subordinate and less than human because they are with the enemy. This is speculation on my part, and if I seem like I'm wrong on anything feel free to let me know.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 15, 2006 #2


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    Good questions!

    I believe it is difficult or impossible to disentangle ritual from other motives in Meso-American history, especially given the nature of our sources. Leaders' glory, for example seems to have been important. But leaders' glory had a ritual signifigance too...

    Well, the Aztecs waged wars for ritual ends, to capture prisoners to use as sacrifices. And some of their sacrifices approached Hiroshima levels of killing!

    Perhaps rather than wartime rape needing a special explanation it's middle class marriage that does. Genghiz Khan's famous line about glory involving impregnating the foe's women may represent the level we start from, and alle anders ist menschenwerk.

    This would certainly be a factor. And heightened animal consciousness due to the battle experience could be another. Put that together with the tendency of people in crowds to imitate each other and you have pretty much explained it.
  4. Feb 15, 2006 #3
    Thank you :)
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