Peaceful Societies, an online resource on nonviolent groups of people across the world, is now hosted by the Department of Anthropology. Launched by retired librarian and current UAB anthropology research associate Bruce Bonta in December 2004, the site traces the cultures, histories, and current events of 25 peaceful societies across the world. These groups range from the Amish and Hutterites of North America to the Ju/’hoansi of southern Africa to the Chewong, Semai, and Batek of Malaysia.
UAB Department of Anthropology chair and professor Dr. Douglas P. Fry, who, along with other anthropologists interested in peace, has served as an adviser for the site since its inception. Fry spoke to Bonta about making UAB the site’s institutional home in early 2015 and according to both scholars, the site fits in well with one of the department’s goals of a focus on peace, justice, and human rights.
Bonta, who worked at Penn State for three decades, began Peaceful Societies as an independent scholarly website in December 2004 after 25 years of reading and writing about peaceful societies. “I was intrigued by certain books I was reading that denied their existence,” he said. Those scholars argued that people are innately aggressive, Bonta said. He points to groups of people who do not see conflict as normal.
The website can used in conjunction with teaching as the department helps elevate the scholarly profile that Bonta has already established. Students are already inspired by Bonta’s work to begin their own studies of peaceful communities.
“I hope there’s this mutual interaction, and that we can enhance the website by having a university be the host,” Fry said. “Bruce is very scholarly and meticulous in getting his facts straight, so the level of his scholarship is high.”