Robert M. Hayden Professor

Robert Hayden (J.D., Ph.D.) is an anthropologist of law and politics. His primary research for more than three decades has focused on the Balkans, but has also done fieldwork in India (1970s, 1992, 2013) and among the Seneca Iroquois of New York State (1970s). Following ethnographic research on Yugoslav socialism from 1981-89, he did extensive work on issues of violence, nationalism, constitutionalism and state reconstruction in the formerly Yugoslav space, as well as on transitional justice issues stemming from the Yugoslav wars. From 2007-2013 Professor Hayden headed Antagonistic Tolerance: An International & Interdisciplinary Project on Competitive Sharing of Religious Sites, which developed and analyzed, variously, ethnographic, historical and archaeological data from Bosnia, Bulgaria, India, Mexico, Peru, Portugal and Turkey. His new research stemming from this project include studies of sufi/ dervish orders in post-imperial settings, and the (re)construction of religious sites to mark competing national territorial claims in Bosnia since the end of the war there.

More information about his research can be found at:

Antagonistic Tolerance: Competitive Sharing of Religous Sites

(Photo: Rabia Harmansah)

The Antagonistic Tolerance Project is a comparative and interdisciplinary  study of religious sites that are both shared and contested by members of different religious communities.   The AT model applies to settings in which groups of people who identify themselves and each other as Self and Other, primarily on the basis of religion, live intermingled for generations, but intermarriage is strongly discouraged.  Political control by one of these groups is indicated by control over key religious sites.  When the dominance of one group is clear, or when both are dominated by an intervening power (colonialism providing good examples), interaction is largely peaceful and sites are often shared, visited by members of both religious groups.  In such situations, the symbols, iconography and ceremonial practices of one group will be dominant but religious syncretism often occurs.  When dominance becomes threatened, violence often occurs; and when dominance is overthrown, major religious sites are radically transformed, either changed into the sites of the newly dominant religion (e.g. the Church – Mosque conversion of Hagia Sofia in Istanbul in 1453 or the Mosque - Cathedral conversion in Cordoba after 1236).
    Thus far, the AT project has analyzed sites in Bulgaria, India, Mexico, Peru, Portugal and Turkey, using the methods and theories, variously, of ethnography, history, ethnohistory, archaeology, and religious studies.

Devotees bringing offerings to the shrine of the Hindu/ Muslim saint Sri Kanifnath/ Shah Ramzan Mahi Savar, village Madhi, taluk Pathardi, Ahmadnagar District, Maharashtra, India, March 1992. Devotees include both Hindus and Muslims; the flagpoles of both are topped with a crescent, and some mix greenand saffron colored flags.

See K. C. Malhotra, Saleem Shah and Robert M. Hayden, "Association of Pomegranate with a Shrine in Maharashtra." Man in India 73: 395-400 (1993).

Ethno-National Conflict

"The geography of the violence is an important consideration, because the wars in Yugoslavia since 1991 have taken place almost entirely within regions that were the most "mixed," where the various nations of Yugoslavia were most intermingled. The extraordinary violence that has shattered these places was not the "fury of nationalist passions long repressed by communism," as many journalists and politicians would have it. Instead, I argue that the wars have been about the forcible unmixing of peoples whose continuing coexistence was counter to the political ideologies that won in the democratic elections of 1990. Thus extreme nationalism in the former Yugoslavia has not been only a matter of imagining allegedly "primordial" communities, but rather of making existing heterogenous ones unimaginable. In formal terms, the point has been to implement an essentialist definition of the nation and its state in regions where the intermingled population formed living disproof of its validity: the brutal negation of social reality in order to reconstruct it."

Robert M. Hayden, "Imagined Communities and Real Victims: Self-Determination and Ethnic Cleansing in Yugoslavia." American Ethnologist 23 (#4): 783-84 (1996).

"When rape avoidance is put into the analysis of ethnic or nationalist conflict the meaning of mass rape itself becomes more clear: it is a tool used to partition permanently an already consciously heterogenous population at the time when the territory in which these people(s) live is being divided physically. Thus mass rape is actually a corollary of the liminality of the state when a heterogenous territory is being sundered into homogenous parts. Looked at in this way, a number of assumptions about mass rape are brought into question, such as that rapists are driven by hatred. To the contrary, many rapists themselves are conflicted, but their acts are meant to induce hatred in the victims."

Robert M. Hayden, "Rape and Rape Avoidance in Ethno-National Conflicts: Sexual Violence in Liminalized States." American Anthropologist 102 (#1): 36 (2000).

War, the Law, and Human Rights

"Attacks against civilians are probably inevitable in any supposedly humanitarian intervention. Every nation has the right to defend itself, and at the level of practical politics, a nation that is attacked will try to resist the attacker. Winning the war thus requires defeating not only the army, but the nation: the civilian population. Thus the decision to attack a sovereign state is, logically, a decision to attack the civilian population of that state, not just the military. NATO's targeting of the civilian infrastructure of Serbia (and earlier, of Iraq), is thus logical, and the constant repetition that "NATO never targets civilians" was hypocritical, presumably meant to obscure the uncomfortable fact that humanitarian intervention requires the committing of humanitarian war crimes. At this point, the greatest triumph of the human rights movement, "humanitarian intervention," is revealed as its greatest defeat, because it transforms what had been a moral critique against state violence into a moral crusade for massive violence by stronger states against weaker ones. "

Robert M. Hayden, "Biased 'Justice:' Humanrightsism and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia," Cleveland State Law Review 47 (#4): 571 (1999).

Serbian post cards of NATO bombing