ROOTS of Conflict: Competition and Conciliation

Among environmental and social constraints and adaptive processes, conflict is an imminent risk and a constant challenge for human societies. Whether with a steadily increasing world population, conflict increases or even decreases in the long run are controversially debated. Arguably, societies have increasingly managed to reduce the potential for violent conflicts in the long-term perspective. Thus, the study of conflict potentials and their impact on past societies can inform us about the conciliatory ability of humans to overcome or transform conflicts, shed new light on the roots, formation, and development of conflicts, and provide more complete patterns of conflict distributions and their regional biographies.

The subcluster aims at an empirical and theoretical comprehension of past conflict causes, trajectories, and conciliations by:

  1. disentangling complex connectivities of social, environmental, and cultural causes and triggers of past conflicts on the basis of refined sound timelines;
  2. both reconstructing conflict biographies and measuring conflict potential variables in order to make past conflicts diachronically comparable in terms of their severity and consequences;
  3. constructing models of characteristic courses of conflicts and their conciliation;
  4. developing a revised understanding of the possible longue durée of conflicts and conciliations. In contrast to current theories focussing on violence, new conflict theories will be formulated with a focus also on conciliation aspects, and it will be clarified whether conflicts generally follow ‘typical’ patterns. Finally, the diachronic development of conflicts and conflict resolution with regard to causes, effects, escalation levels, and long-term effects will be distinctly better understood.

ROOTS of Conflicts focuses on the following main research questions: What were the spatial and social scales of conflict in past societies? Which risk and prevention strategies were adopted in the past? Which factors, intensity, and thresholds determined whether conflict is escalated, transformed, or resolved? Were the occurrence and intensity of violence a matter of social organisation? These questions will be addressed by taking into account the role of landscape, natural environment, and subsistence in shaping conflict dynamics, as well as through identifying the scale of spatial, social, and linguistic boundaries, the interaction of these delimitation criteria between and within societies, and the role of territoriality and borders in conflict resolutions. A focus will also be placed on questions related to the qualitative differences in material culture and language that may indicate competing strategies, the implications of trade relations, and the exchange of technology and people.



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Participating Institutions