Power and the Social Structure of Insurgencies

Monday, February 22, 2016 - 6:30pm
Williams Hall, Roemmele Global Commons

How do civil war commanders make their soldiers fight and risk their lives in combat? Why do some use physical violence to make their followers respond to orders, while others engage in complex psychological education and mental preparation? Why do some train their rank-and-file soldiers, while others simply hand them weapons without further preparations? And how do soldiers themselves respond to command structures and disciplinary systems? The lecture will provide answers to these questions and shed light on how power is reproduced in insurgent movements. It will explain the importance of social structure and, more precisely, the habitus of agents within the field of insurgency in maintaining hierarchy and command in organizing and enforcing consent. Commanders and soldiers, in this perspective, structure their disciplinary practice according to incorporated behavioral and cognitive schemes that relate to the social position of the respective agent and the patterns of his life course.

The lecture is based upon dozens of qualitative interviews with commanders and soldiers from three insurgent groups operating along the Thai-Cambodian border during the 1980s and 1990s. Using a technique called habitus hermeneutics, interviews were conducted with members of the Khmer People’s National Liberation Armed Forces (KPNLAF), the Armée Nationale Sihanoukiste (ANS), and the National Army of Democratic Kampuchea (NADK, better known as the Khmer Rouge). The lecture will provide insights into the social structure of these groups and how power becomes reproduced through disciplinary practice.

© IMRC CAS 2016

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