Honor and violence in Comparative Perspective: America, Uzbekistan and Rwanda

Violence has been an integral part of individual and group relations throughout history, shaping the formation of nations and societies.  Even within distinctly different cultures, violent manifestations of similar values and fears emerge.  Transcending cultural, regional, and geographical boundaries, protecting one’s sense of honor is a consistent justification for committing violence.  My paper considers examples of socially accepted or encouraged violence for the sake of honor existing in multiple cultures and the implications of these cultures resorting to violence as a means of achieving or maintaining a social ideal.  The primary examples for this parallel are group lynchings of black Americans in the Civil War and Reconstruction era United States, the rape and killing of Muslim women unveiling in 1920s Uzbekistan, and Rwandan tribal conflicts of the twentieth century.  Within each example, I will discuss who committed the violence against whom and what excuses were used to validate these acts.  I will also explore how the violence fits with the social and religious expectations of the communities and how gender and race/ethnicity impacted the victimization.  Although honor is the justification for this violence, there frequently exists deeper roots of shifting cultural norms and the progression of civil rights.  Violence is a means of subjugation and affecting social norms, with sentiments such as honor used as an excuse for said violence.  While most of my current bibliography pertains to lynching and honor, additional research will be done to support my claims regarding Uzbekistan and Rwanda.