Warscapes

The concept of a ‘warscape‘ was originally proposed by Carolyn Nordstrom in A different kind of war story (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997) – riffing off Arjun Appadurai’s many other ‘scapes’ – as an indispensable term for what she called ‘an ethnography of a war zone’.  It’s been elaborated by several other anthropologists, including Danny Hoffman, Stephen Lubkemann and Mats Utas, and its geographical dimensions have been very acutely mapped by Benedikt Korf, Michelle Engeler and Tobias Hagmann in ‘The geography of warscape’, Third World Quarterly 31 (2010) 385-99.

But there is another, related series of warscapes – or rather Warscapes.  The online journal Warscapes, a magazine of literature, art and politics, was launched a year ago last week,with the mission of ‘highlighting conflicts from the past fifty years, especially those bearing the burdens of extraordinarily complicated colonial legacies, seeking insight from art.’

Among the feast of delights currently on offer is a series of contributions celebrating Gloria Anzaldúa‘s Borderlands/La Frontera: the new mestiza, which was originally published 25 years ago but has lost none of its power to captivate, move and disturb, and a provocative extract from Teun Voeten‘s Narco Estado: Drug violence in Mexico (Lannoo, 2012), including some stunning and heartbreaking images. He writes:

For the last 22 years, I have been covering wars and conflicts worldwide. I have seen the gamut of barbaric acts of which humans are capable. In Sarajevo, I ran from snipers shooting innocent civilians who were already being starved by the strangling siege. I was in Kigali when the genocide started and saw machete-wielding mobs hunting down hapless victims. In Kabul and Grozny, I walked in residential neighborhoods reduced to rubble, their former inhabitants scrounging for food in the company of stray dogs. I had my share of craziness in Sierra Leone and Liberia, where I was confronted many times with doped-up child soldiers. Recently, in Libya, I smelled that sickening odor of dead bodies left behind after another cowardly massacre.

Nothing compares to the recent drug violence in Mexico… The violence in Mexico has passed a threshold and has become a war – a new kind of war.

It may be a ‘new kind of war’ – certainly others have made that case – but, as I’ve argued in ‘The everywhere war’, it’s surely too simple to reduce the violence to narco-violence….

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