“A Founding Violence”


This term, “a founding violence”, coined by Rene Girad, perfectly describe the recent beheading of two journalists from America by Isis. In his article Beheaded: An AnthropologyChristian S Hammons discusses several ways that Anthropologist might perceive the new bouts of violence in Middle Easter countries.

Religion has played a crucial role in conflicts all throughout history. One way to approach the trouble in the Middle East is through it’s use of religion as a smokescreen. Since religion has been the cause of so much bloodshed in the past, it is easy to assume that the same holds true for this new struggle. This mindset is feared since it may “unleash a new round of Islamophobia” in a world that already struggles with Religious toleration. However, as Daniel Martin Varisco states in his article The Trouble with ISISthe problem is that Religion is used to overshadow the politics that are actually controlling the movements of this organization.

Another way that these beheading videos can be perceived by anthropologists, is as the imposition of new social order, and of a more global mindset. As someone with little knowledge of the social and political order of the Middle East, it is easy to miss the underlying anthropological importance of these videos. They are a deeper look into the way that power and control are gained in other parts of the world. In America, we rarely (if ever) see anything like this in our lifetimes. Power and control as seen as diplomatic affairs, with any violence or foul-play covered in layers and layers of media.

However, media is now playing a larger social role in the promotion of such horrible acts. One of the first tabs I open each day is Youtube. Instantly I become linked to hours and hours of streaming content, available at the click of a button. These videos are linked with a social media campaign, the likes of which are always circulating through our Facebook news feeds or Twitter feeds. All the campaigns that we are exposed to are meant to serve a point this one is just much more sinister.

This brings us back to the idea of the “founding violence”. This term is defined as “the violence at the origin of a new social order, usually directed at an outsider, a sacrificial victim, whose death is intended to dispel internal conflict”. Meaning, this act of beheading these prisoneers on camera severed to show ISIS’ dominance over other groups. Letting them assert their power, just like the stereotypical playground bully who picks on the smallest child. Just like the childhood bully, the beheading of these journalists serves to send a message of dominance across the world.