Violence and its variation in time and space

The symposium takes place at Kungliga Vitterhetsakademien (The Royal Swedish Acadamy of Letters, Antiquities and History). There will be four sessions – three talks and one discussion – and we will meet both for lunch and dinner. The dinner will take place at the Academy.

The symposium is open to registered participants only, and seats are limited.

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12.00 Kimmo Eriksson, researcher at CEK, opens the symposium
12.30 Lunch at Scandic Park
13.30 Luke Glowacki: The biocultural bases of intergroup violence
14.30 Gunilla Krantz: Violence in intimate relationships in a global health perspective
15.30 Coffee and tea break
16.00 Pontus Strimling: The cultural evolution of norms about violence
17.00 Open discussion
18.00 Dinner at Vitterhetsakademin



The biocultural bases of intergroup violence

Luke Glowacki, Department of Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University

Humans are unusual in the flexibility of our responses to outgroups, ranging from violence and warfare, to tolerance and affiliation. But why intergroup violence develops remains a source of dispute. I argue that aggressive intergroup relationships result from interacting cultural and social dynamics including (1) systems of reward and punishment, (2) informal leadership and social structure, and (3) expectations of asymmetric gain. Cultural incentive systems for warfare are associated with greater participation in war, while the threat of peer sanctioning functions as an important catalyst for both warfare and peace. Within-group social structure has a crucial role in the emergence of intergroup violence. Using social network data on raiding parties in an East African society, I show that conflicts are led by individuals who occupy important positions in the network. Their favourable network position allows them to recruit from the entire social network, while conflict participation can then fuel prosocial attitudes towards the group. Norms promoting inequitable distribution of resources may be an important incentive for these key individuals. Individuals may initiate conflict in expectation of an asymmetric return of the spoils, even when doing is suboptimal compared to non-conflict. Together these lines of evidence underscore a key role for social structure and cultural norms in the occurrence of intergroup violence.

Violence in intimate relationships in a global health perspective

Gunilla Krantz, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Gothenburg

I will start by presenting a WHO framework for how to understand the various forms of violence, and then concentrate on interpersonal violence of which partner violence is a dominating form, i.e. men’s violence against women and women’s violence against men. Prevalence rates and comparisons between countries as well as risk factors and health effects will be described. What are the reasons for, in most cases, a male person to use violence towards his closest person in life, the wife/partner or former wife/partner? Some theories will be discussed. 

The cultural evolution of norms about violence

Pontus Strimling, Centre for Cultural Evolution, Stockholm University

In this talk I will outline the historical decline in violence, sketching the evidence for the length as well as the cross-cultural breath of the phenomena. Considering the span of when and where violence has become more restrictive, I will discuss what type of mechanism could explain this large scale trend. Finally, I will outline how asymmetric punishment patterns that arise from human threat response could drive the trend, and show the empirical evidence in support of this explanation.