Jordan Kiper, PhD Candidate (ABD) in Anthropology was recently awarded the Human Rights Dissertation Writing Fellowship for the Summer of 2016. Read more about his project below:
A longstanding question in the field of human rights is how communities come to support or engage in extreme acts of mass violence and thereby commit crimes against humanity. To answer this question, several international criminal tribunals over the course of the twentieth century have advanced an historical narrative that routinely invokes a contentious model of propaganda. That model is based on several untested theories that portray mass violence as the direct social effect of inciting propaganda, such as incendiary publications or inflammatory speeches, which were intended to motivate attacks on a recognizable civilian population. However, as much as inciting propaganda appears to be a direct and proximate cause of mass violence, it is more accurate to view it as a social process, beginning long before mass violence ever occurs and being expressed in many forms with varied social effects, depending on the context.
In “Propaganda in the Yugoslav Wars: An Anthropology of Memory and Mass Violence,” I focus on the case study of the Yugoslav Wars to investigate the process of inciting propaganda and its relationship to mass violence. I draw primarily from 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork with ex-fighters and the greater population of non-combatants in former conflict regions of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia. Through semi-structured interviews and survey data, I test several hypotheses aimed at explaining between population variance in life histories and both social and psychological factors that contributed to mass violence. Much of my dissertation research is also concerned with the direct impact of various forms of inciting propaganda on support for violent political agendas. Here I draw from a between subjects experiment I carried out with Richard Wilson in Serbia at Belgrade University. These results, both my fieldwork and experimental data, are grounded in two sets of theories. The first is an integrated set of three contemporary theories on inciting propaganda; the second is a set of evolutionary theories of intergroup violence, religion, and revenge. I synthesize these views in my dissertation, which I plan to defend in the fall of 2017.
I am deeply grateful to the Human Rights Institute for providing so much support to graduate students, including the Human Rights Dissertation Writing Fellowship. As the 2017 recipient, I plan to use the fellowship period to finish my dissertation and continue refining its underlying implications with regard to preventing mass violence.
Jordan Kiper is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut. Besides his research interests in human rights and religion, he is an avid consumer of new music, literature, and movies; adores animals (especially cats); and values time spent with kind or imaginative people.