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How to Scale Factional Divisions in Conflict Situations

Finding Perpetrators and Switchboard Operators in Post-Authoritarian Argentina

Antonius C.G.M. Robben

In conducting fieldwork among perpetrators of state violence, it is a major methodological problem to gain access to competing factions within the research population. Ethnographers often succeed in finding access to at least one faction but this successful rapport might then immediately close off other factions that mistrust the ethnographer’s politics, intentions, or alleged sympathies. The ethnographic challenge is to find intermediaries or switchboard operators, as they are called in this article, who have established informal channels of communication between hostile factions. Switchboard operators have the following characteristics: discretion, neutrality, lack of formal power, disinterestedness, trustworthiness, and they act as a conduit of communication. This article describes how switchboard operators were located in Argentina, and how they played a crucial role in my fieldwork among a broad spectrum of military perpetrators who had terrorized the Argentine people between 1976 and 1983 with enforced disappearances and state repression.

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Rethinking the Anthropology of Violence for the Twenty-First Century

From Practice to Mediation

Antonius C. G. M. Robben

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Response to Nancy Scheper‐Hughes

ANTONIUS C.G.M. ROBBEN

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Response to Nancy Scheper‐Hughes

ANTONIUS C.G.M. ROBBEN

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Chaos, mimesis and dehumanisation in Iraq

American counterinsurgency in the global War on Terror

Antonius C. G. M. Robben

This article examines how the military dimension of the global clash between the cellular system of nonstate networks and the vertebrate system of nation‐states, as formulated by Arjun Appadurai, was played out in counterinsurgency operations between US troops and Iraqi insurgents during the Iraq War between 2004 and 2006. It demonstrates how American forces embraced the insurgency's networked tactics when massive assault operations failed. Informed by social mimesis and Manichaeism, counterinsurgency units enhanced the chaos of local battle spaces, dehumanised combatants hiding among the people, and thereby increased civilian deaths at checkpoints, during raids and in detention centres.

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Riding Along with Police

Opportunity for Learning and Beyond

Anita M. Waters, Antonius C.G.M. Robben, Chris Giacomantonio, and Steve Herbert

In the summer of 2008 I sent out a call to thirty former students from three semesters between 2000 and 2005, to reflect on what they learned from the “ride-alongs” with police, whether the project has changed their views on social order and the state, on the practice of law enforcement, and on the process of gathering knowledge about social life in general. Ten responded, and their ideas show that the experience of police ethnography had a considerable impact.