Dehumanization in War and Peace: Encounters with Lebanon's Ex-Militia Fighters

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Between 2006 and 2009, I attended various peacebuilding and antiwar events in Lebanon, from dialogue sessions and workshops to lectures and demonstrations. One refrain at these events was that war should be avoided because it was dehumanizing or, in a slightly different form, that it results in a loss of humanity. Alongside these gatherings, I conducted interviews and ethnographic fieldwork with former militia fighters from Lebanon's war (1975–1990). Together, these encounters led me to question notions of dehumanization in discourses of war and peace. Did war dehumanize? Did dehumanization lead to war? Did perpetrators lose their humanity through acts of killing? Did their actions stem from the dehumanization of the other? This article explores these questions and interrogates the notion of humanity. I argue that in allowing the notion of humanity to shape our politics, and in centering the loss of humanity in discourses of war and peace, both war and peace are invariably depoliticized. [war, dehumanization, combatants, humanity, Lebanon].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)583-594
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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