A Phone without Names

Distrust and Duress in Côte d’Ivoire

in Conflict and Society
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The anthropology of war has provided intimate analyses of how communities deal with hardship in violent conflicts. These clearly affect such communities’ social fabric, but exactly how is little understood. This article uses the lens of trust and distrust to analyze the effects of violent conflict on social relations. Through an ethnographic case study of a nurse during the 2002–2011 violent conflict in Côte d’Ivoire, I show how his trust in social norms, political opponents, and strangers in general became transformed into distrust. He stopped saving names in his phone to protect himself and people in his phone. The case highlights how experiences of duress can create distrust and how distrust can prolong conditions of duress by hindering the rebuilding of social trust.