This essay, which introduces the fifth installment of the Common Knowledge symposium “Peace by Other Means,” explores four ethnographically observed areas in which indigenous knowledge and practice hold insights for the prevention and reduction of enmity in the modern world. The four, very broadly, are values and norms (such as recoil from competition) that nurture peace, exceptional capacity for and recognition of the necessity of cooperation, exceptionally flexible and multilayered definitions of identity, and rituals that effect and strengthen peace. Neither this essay nor the symposium in which it appears advocates a simple application of conflict-prevention or -resolution mechanisms from particular cultures to other emic contexts. The point, rather, is to seek more general theoretical principles wherever they are to be found, given repeated failures of the modern peacemaking apparatus.

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