Tag Archive: ethiopia

  1. Group violence caused by friendship networks

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    A study at the Yale Institute of Network Science has found that social networks are critical to humans’ motivations for participation in group violence.

    The researchers mapped social connections among 91 men of the Nyangatom tribe, which is known for participating in group raids of neighboring tribes, in Ethiopia over three years. The study found that men were more likely to participate in a raid if they were recruited by a friend rather than recruited by the leader of the raid. These results are relevant to other violent phenomena, such as mobs, revolutionary movements and gang warfare, because they show that people are more likely to participate in risky behaviors if their friends are participating as well.

    “What we found is that people go to war with their friends,” said Nicholas Christakis ’84, the co-director of the Yale Institute of Network Science and a senior author of the study.

    To determine friendship networks, the researchers mapped a gift-exchange network within the community, Christakis said. The researchers asked each man in the Nyangatom tribe to whom he would like to give a small gift, and these gift networks were then mapped to show the social networks of the individuals within the tribe.

    The results found that a Nyangatom man was 19.2 percent more likely to participate in a given raid for every nonleader friend going on the raid, while he was only 6.8 percent more likely to participate if the friend was a leader of the raid.

    Additionally, the study found that there was no significant increase or decrease in a man’s likelihood to participate in a raid when a sibling was participating in the raid, nor was likelihood to participate affected by physical characteristics such as height or weight.

    “What this suggests is whether you purchase an iPad or whether you read the [Yale Daily News] may have less to do with your gender or your major or which dorm you live in and more to do with what are your friends doing,” Christakis explained. “These phenomena are not fully explainable or even well explainable based on assumptions about your attributes. Instead they may have to do with the structure of the group and what is happening around you.”

    These social networks are known to be very similar across human societies, said Alexander Isakov, a co-first author of the study who focused on data analysis. Therefore, the results found in this study could actually mirror what occurs in certain violent groups in western society, such as gang violence or terrorism, he explained.

    According to Isakov, the violence caused by these groups and the Nyangatom tribe raids are both similar in that it is not formal military conflicts. He added that these raids also do not have traditional leaders, which forces them to rely on pre-existing ties within the community.

    “The social ties that exist in this community, the friendship ties, actually amplify this collective violence,” Isakov said.

    Christakis pointed out that this study addressed the “collective action problem,” which deals with how to recruit others to participate in potentially dangerous behaviors, especially when the risks are individual but the benefits are shared by the group.

    Christakis added that these social networks obey very particular biological, psychological, sociological and mathematical rules, and the goal of the Yale Institute of Network Science is to understand these rules and how to use them to make changes.

    “We are studying how to facilitate global health behavior change,” Christakis said. “How do you create artificial tipping points in developing world villages so if one person starts vaccinating their children the whole village starts vaccinating their children?”

    The study also developed a mathematical model for determining the leaders in the raid.

  2. A Stroll through Fascism: “Selling War” at Sterling

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    A mildly racist rendering of a black man leads the way. He is dressed in military garb, wearing a red cap set at a jaunty angle. He is leaning forward almost to the point of toppling over, his bayonet driving him forward. Behind him is a soaring eagle, a life-sized, rather heavy-looking cannon clutched in its claws. The man holds a rippling yellow flag, a large “I” stamped upon it.

    This scene is from a postcard hanging in a display case in Sterling Library. It is a piece of propaganda made by the Italian government sometime between 1935 and 1941. This postcard and several other artifacts make up an exhibit at Sterling entitled “Selling War: The Use of Propaganda in the Italian Conquest and Occupation of Ethiopia, 1935–1941.”

    When you walk into the main foyer of Sterling, head up to the desk, make a right, and walk past the entrance to the stacks, continuing down the sun-dappled corridor. There, in five display cases on the left side of the wall, is “Selling War.” The exhibit is set in roughly chronological order, beginning with early images meant to excite an Italian populace before the invasion commenced. It continues to sample propagandistic images — mostly postcards, but also books, photos, beautiful old maps and one incredibly disturbing pillowcase, depicting idyllic children prematurely headed to battle. The objects span Italy’s entire military invasion of Ethiopia.

    The images used fear, patriotism and the nuclear family to enflame and enrapture the public. Symbols of the splendors of ancient Rome, pictures of handsome soldiers and swooning ladies, clear-eyed children and sinister Africans adorn the propaganda. One picture shows a father, bayonet in hand, his adorable son by his side, dressed in his very own little military uniform. Another postcard displays the profile of a shirtless soldier, muscular and bloodied, marching into battle. Yet another is of an eagle gruesomely clawing a lion’s eyes out.

    The exhibit — small and out-of-the-way though it may be — beautifully displays the range of propaganda, beginning before the occupation and ending just after it. The images remain consistent in their message — Aryan men (along with some African allies) will triumph over the cunning Ethiopian — but the range of their appeals is fascinating (from display sections labeled “Getting Ready” to “Atrocities”). Furthermore, the exhibit is scattered with helpful historical information and pictures of Mussolini, Haile Selassie and others, giving the viewer a complete sense of the context of the propaganda.

    To be sure, the exhibit is not perfect. Many of the images have no captions or labels, making comprehension somewhat difficult. And some of the captions that are present are strikingly biased in their language (“Fascists brainwashed children”). Finally, the exhibit is perhaps too inconspicuous for its own good. Yet that is also why it is worth seeing. Quick and concise, something one could easily absorb in 15 minutes, “Selling War” is a great way to experience a piece of history on your way out of the library.

    “Selling War” will be on display from Dec. 13 to April 19 in the exhibits corridor of Sterling Memorial Library.