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Dark Trophies: Hunting and the Enemy Body in Modern War

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Dark Trophies

Hunting and the Enemy Body in Modern War

Simon Harrison

244 pages, 2 figures, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-498-0 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (June 2012)

ISBN  978-1-78238-520-2 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (May 2014)

eISBN 978-0-85745-499-7 eBook

Hb Pb   Buy the eBook! $29.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“Prepare to cringe. As if the horrors of combat were not enough, Harrison introduces another brutal, and ultimately fascinating, element of humans at war: military trophy taking…an important book. Highly recommended.” · Choice

“This book should be interesting to anybody interested in modern warfare, atrocity, brutalization and war crimes. Its lucid language should make it possible to use chapters in the advanced undergraduate classroom, and the conceptual richness and broad historical sweep will inspire debate in the honours or graduate seminar.” · Anthropological Forum

Dark Trophies is a stark, but lucid, book. It demonstrates once again that cultural anthropology can find logic in the most morally questionable of practices, and in doing so, demonstrates that ‘self and other’ do not differ as much as the right might want us to think. Harrison makes a persuasive case: trophy-taking of human body parts by victorious soldiers is rooted in an animal-hunting schema that strips the enemy of his humanity. It is a shadow that haunts warfare, east and west, traditional and modern.” · Oceania

“The synthetic breadth and original analysis of Dark Trophies make it an insightful and important scholarly contribution. It shows persuasively how ‘savagery’ has persisted as a social practice within modern warfare, thus challenging ideas about the ‘civilized’ West. Historians and anthropologists of violence, warfare, the body, and race in Europe and America will find it a source of inspiration.” · The American Historical Review

“This is an extremely interesting book with a strong argument overall…It is extremely readable, makes anthropological analysis accessible and does not over-exoticize the topic. Most admirably, the author keeps a tight focus on cross-cultural analysis…The bibliography is comprehensive and will also be a very useful tool for interested readers and researchers. I can’t think of anything like it in the extant literature; it bridges colonial North American and 20th century Pacific warfare, for instance.” · Laura Peers, University of Oxford

“This is a wonderful book, which I found quite compulsive reading, and this is due not only to the compelling and often indeed disturbing subject that it focuses on, but also to the accessible yet sophisticated writing style of its author.” · Joost Fontein, University of Edinburgh


Many anthropological accounts of warfare in indigenous societies have described the taking of heads or other body parts as trophies. But almost nothing is known of the prevalence of trophy-taking of this sort in the armed forces of contemporary nation-states. This book is a history of this type of misconduct among military personnel over the past two centuries, exploring its close connections with colonialism, scientific collecting and concepts of race, and how it is a model for violent power relationships between groups.

Simon Harrison is Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Ulster and has carried out ethnographic fieldwork among the people of Avatip in Papua New Guinea. He is the author of, among other works, The Mask of War (Manchester University Press, 1993) and Fracturing Resemblances: Identity and Mimetic Conflict in Melanesia and the West (Berghahn Books, 2005).

Subject: Peace & Conflict Studies General Anthropology General History



Introduction: Dark Trophies of Enlightened War

Chapter 1. Schemas and Metaphors
Chapter 2. Hunting and War: the European History of a Metaphor
Chapter 3. Bodies and Class in the Age of Revolution
Chapter 4. The European Enlightenment and the Origins of Scalping
Chapter 5. Skulls and Science
Chapter 6. The Collecting Expedition as a Magical Quest
Chapter 7. Skulls and Scientific Collecting in the Victorian Military
Chapter 8. From Hero to Specimen: Phrenology, Craniology and the Indian Skull
Chapter 9. Ethnology, Race and Trophy-hunting in the American Civil War
Chapter 10. Museums and Lynchings: Bodies and the Exhibition of Order
Chapter 11. Savages on the Frontiers of Europe
Chapter 12. Skull Trophies of the Pacific War
Chapter 13. Transgressive Objects of Remembrance
Chapter 14. The Colonial Manhunt and the Body Parts of Bandits: Hunting Schemas in British Counter-insurgency
Chapter 15. Kinship and the Enemy Body in the Vietnam War
Chapter 16. Returning Memories




Figure 1a:Taboo: wife and sister
Figure 1b: Metaphor: wife and crown
Figure 2: Metaphoric and taboo relationships between social practices

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