Peaceful Societies

Alternatives  to Violence and War






Encyclopedia of Selected Peaceful Societies


Introduction | Amish | Batek | Birhor | Buid | Chewong | Fipa | G/wi | Hutterites | Ifaluk | Inuit of Utkuhikhalik and Qipisa Communities | Ju/'hoansi | Kadar | Ladakhi | Lepchas | Malapandaram | Mbuti | Nubians | Paliyans | Piaroa | Rural Thai | Semai | Tahitians | Tristan Islanders | Yanadi | Zapotec of La Paz Village


A Peaceful Society: Some anthropologists and sociologists, trained as careful observers, have described a small number of societies as “peaceful,” “at peace,” or “peaceable.” They have written convincingly about the ways these societies avoid internal violence and warfare. This Encyclopedia includes information about a selection of those societies.

Zapotec ChildrenSocieties Vary: The nature of the peacefulness varies for each entry in the Encyclopedia of Selected Peaceful Societies portion of this website. In fact, the nonviolence may vary within any given society from one community to the next a few miles away. Peacefulness also may vary in these societies over the course of time. Communities that were peaceful when a social scientist was doing field research may have subsequently become more violent—or their peacefulness may have developed shortly before the anthropologist or sociologist visited. Furthermore, many societies not yet included in this Encyclopedia are also peaceful, some highly so. This Encyclopedia is a beginning effort, a selection of 25 societies. Others will be included as time permits.

Peaceful Societies That Do Experience Violence: While some of the peaceful societies included in this Encyclopedia rarely, if ever, experience violence, others do—on an occasional, but regular, basis. In effect, some societies are included despite the fact that murders have occurred on rare occasion, or fights break out from time to time. For those societies, the literature reveals enough peaceful elements to make their inclusion worthwhile.

Purpose of the Encyclopedia: The key to understanding the peacefulness of all these societies lies in the observations of the social scientists, their analyses of the data, and the reactions of the scholarly community to the published results. The purpose of the entries in the Encyclopedia is to serve as introductions to the detailed scholarly literature about the peaceful societies and to the wealth of ideas that the literature can inspire. Hopefully, this literature will enrich the broader discipline of peace studies, and encourage students to examine societies that already are quite nonviolent as they consider contemporary problems of violence in the world.

Criteria for Inclusion: The following criteria have been applied to the social science literature in order to allow a selected listing of societies to be chosen:

Scholarship Varies: Many different facets of the societies are analyzed by scholars. Some publications focus on religious beliefs and practices, while others examine social and psychological structures. Some scholars investigate the ways people raise their children to carry on their nonviolence, while others discuss conflict resolution strategies that inhibit violence. In other words, the literature varies depending on the interests of the scholars.

The Encyclopedia Entries:

Sources of Information: The information in each entry is based primarily on the printed works cited, supplemented by the cited sources found on the Web. The list of sources at the end of each entry is not intended as a complete bibliography of works about the society. However, the source list should help students of peaceful societies embark on their own explorations.

Entries in the Encyclopedia: The following societies are represented with entries in this Encyclopedia: Amish, Batek, Birhor, Buid, Chewong, Fipa, G/wi, Hutterites, Ifaluk, Inuit of Utkuhikhalik and Qipisa Communities, Ju/’hoansi, Kadar, Ladakhi, Lepchas, Malapandaram, Mbuti, Nubians, Paliyans, Piaroa, Rural Thai, Semai, Tahitians, Tristan Islanders, Yanadi, and Zapotec of La Paz.

Published encyclopedia articles on peaceful societies (Click on links for complete references): Dentan 2002; Fry 1999; Sponsel 1996a

Photo: Zapotec of La Paz school children playing during recess. D. P. Fry photo collection.




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