1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

The Historical Anthropology of Guerrilla Warfare


Virtually none of the general studies of guerrilla warfare address questions concerning its origins. There is something of a consensus among military historians that organized guerrilla resistance in the “modern” sense first appeared during the era of the Napoleonic wars in both Spain and Russia. But a more in depth and extended investigation from the perspective of peasant societies, where most major guerrilla movements have occurred, suggests that the origins of this critical mode of collective social protest can be traced back millennia to the epoch when sedentary agriculture, peasants, and supra-village elites emerged in societies across the globe. The presentation and discussion will focus on the dynamics of elite-peasant interactions which gave rise to peasant defensive and protest tactics aimed at offsetting elite and state power and the ways in which these eventually coalesced in guerrilla tactics and ultimately strategies for waging revolutionary guerrilla warfare. Attention will be given to changes in the political reach and military power of agrarian state systems, and the ways in which technological innovations and demographic-environmental variables led to the increasing sophistication of peasant guerrilla resistance and counterinsurgency strategies that have made them vastly more costly and lethal for combatants and civilians alike in the second half of the twentieth century. 

  • Reception follows in Brooks Commons, 1st Floor
    Sponsored by Department of Anthropology
Event Date: 
Friday, 28 September 2012 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Michael Adas
Speaker Title: 
Abraham E. Voorhees Professor of History, Rutgers University