2015 | 1(31/2) | 199-230
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Brutalities in Anti-Imperial Revolts. Commonalities and Differences in Distinct yet Overlapping Forms of Violence by Peripheral Ethnic-Indigenous Communities and Imperial Powers in Classical, Medieval and Modern (Industrial) Times

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In order to understand and resolve internal armed conflicts one must comprehend why and how people revolt, and under what conditions they brutalise i.e. increasingly resort to terrorism, banditry, brigandry, “gangsterism” and other forms of violence that violate contemporary local and/or present‑day international norms that I believe are, in the final analysis, all based on the principles of conscience, empathy and honour. Contemporary “global” or regional norms distinct from those of the rebelling community, and the norms of the regime community and/or colonial power, are also considered. My pessimistically formulated and thereby quite testable brutalisation theory combines theorising elements of disciplines ranging from cultural anthropology to military psychology, so as to better explain rebellions or any armed conflicts and their morally corrosive effects. The theory’s main variables are: violence‑values (my composite term) on proper and improper violence; conflict‑inducing motivations, in particular grievances, avarices, interests and ideologies, that bring about i.e. cause or trigger the conflict; combat‑stresses like fear, fatigue and rage resulting from or leading to traumas (and hypothetically to brutalities as well); and conflict‑induced motivations, in particular grievances, avarices, interest and ideologies, that happen by, through and during the conflict. The present paper is an exploratory introduction to an ambitious research project, succinctly titled “Brutalisation in Anti‑Imperial Revolts”, with advice and support from Professor Tomasz Polanski. The paper addresses the project’s relevance and its epistemological and methodological challenges. The project seeks to explain rebellion, banditry and other forms of violence that may or may not be inherently brutal. It seeks to ascertain the causes and degrees of any brutalisations i.e. increasing violations of norms during rebellions by peripheral, marginalised ethnic (indigenous) communities against their overlords in classical, medieval and “modern” (industrial) times. It introduces seven selected cases of “peripheral‑ethnic revolts” by indigenous communities – as (semi‑) state actors, non‑state actors or both (yet possessing at least residual ruling capabilities) – against Imperial powers across the ages, with a special focus on banditry, “brigandry” (brigandage), guerrilla and other forms of irregular warfare. The first stage of the research will analyse and compare the causes i.e. motivations and involved norms, sorts of violence and degrees of brutalisation in these seven cases.
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