The Global Reservation: Notes toward an Ethnography of International Peacekeeping

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Essay Excerpt

Of the many dramatic consequences of the end of the Cold War, few have been as notable as the sudden expansion in the international role of the United Nations. Consider for example, that the UN has embarked on almost as many peacekeeping operations in the four years that have passed since 1989, as it did in the four decades that preceded it. The prospects are that in the next few years its peacekeeping activities will expand faster still. In a sense, the very fact of the UN's interventionism is a guarantee of this, for it provides an incentive for conflicts to be taken to the point where intercession becomes inevitable.

It is no coincidence that the majority of the UN's peacekeeping operations to date have been in places that fall within anthropology's traditional domains - in Asia, Africa, and Central America - and there can be little doubt that it is those very areas that will provide most of the locations for the UN missions of the future. In many of these places, peacekeeping operations will inevitably become harbingers of the future, not merely because of their immediate impact on the ebb and flow of politics, but also because they will serve as a political model, as a pattern of order and governance. It is the peculiar power of such models that they produce imaginative - and therefore cultural and political - resonances that reach far beyond the fields where they are first tested: nationalism is one example. It is my belief that the workings of international peacekeeping as we see them today may well contain the elements of another such model, one that will probably be this century's most important political legacy to the next (412).

Ghosh, Amitav. "The Global Reservation: Notes toward an Ethnography of International Peacekeeping." Cultural Anthropology 9.3(1994): 412–422.

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