Briggs, Jean L. 2000. “Conflict Management in a Modern Inuit Community.” In Hunters and Gatherers in the Modern World: Conflict, Resistance, and Self-Determination, edited by Peter P. Schweitzer, Megan Biesele and Robert K. Hitchcock, p.110 – 124. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books

On the rare occasions that conflicts became unavoidable, the Inuit used to diffuse tensions with song duels. These contests allowed the antagonists to exchange scathing ritualized attacks on one another in the form of song contests that did not allow arguments or rebuttals and that concealed the actual reasons for the confrontation. Instead, the winners were the ones who presented their ambiguous songs most effectively, a format that served to diffuse tensions and allow the disputants to reintegrate in the community. While such traditional modes of dissipating feelings are no longer practical in settled Arctic communities, Briggs describes a modern substitute that similarly reduces tensions indirectly—the community bulletin board programs carried on the radio. A fascinating insight into the ways a peaceful society, with very strong prohibitions against open expressions of conflict, manages to continue that tradition in the vastly changed circumstances of today.

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