Facehunting: Empathy, Masculinity and Violence Among the Bugkalot
Postdoc Henrik Hvenegaard Mikkelsen has written an article about to the Journal of Extreme Anthropology with the headline 'Facehunting: Empathy, Masculinity and Violence Among the Bugkalot'.
The article discusses how anthropological explorations of empathy can be enriched through a focus on transgression. Empathy is commonly understood as a human capacity that allows a person to share the feelings of others through some form of mental engagement. Thereby, it is believed, empathy establishes compassionate relationships between people and prevents violence from breaking out. In this article, Henrik Hvenegaard Mikkelsen suggests that the opposite may be the case: that, in fact, empathy may be the very foundation for acts of radical violence and killings. The ethnographic basis of his inquiry is research conducted among the Bugkalot (Ilongot) of northern Philippines on the practice of headhunting. Henrik Hvenegaard Mikkelsen proposes that empathy is what allows violence to achieve its transformative capacity. Furthermore, he seeks to show how understanding headhunting as "murder" may disclose how this particular act is tied to masculine ideals of autonomy. Headhunting, Henrik Hvenegaard Mikkelsen argues, targets not the head but the "face", that is, it strikes at the very fulcrum of the ethical relation and the foundation of empathy.
Henrik Hvenegaard Mikkelsen, Facehunting: Empathy, Masculinity and Violence Among the Bugkalot in Journal of Extreme Anthropology, 2017.