In partnership with HQ 2 Div and the Randwick Barracks Officers Mess, this CoveTalk discussed War, Conflict and Being Human and was presented by Doctor Richard Davis. Livestreamed here on The Cove at 1630 h (AEST) on Thursday, 30 June 2022. 

In this talk Dr Davis linked current and potential future conflict events, such as in Ukraine and potentially in our own region, to the perennial questions that dominate debate around the historical roots of warfare. These questions are typically framed in an either/or way: ‘is war innate to the human species, or did it emerge as social organisation became increasingly complex?’ In discussing these questions anthropologists and archaeologists look to both historical evidence of warfare and weapons as well as tracing evidence of conflict all the way back through humans common ancestors to chimpanzees. Far from these debates being an interesting historical curiosity, they are increasingly drawn on by political scientists and international relations scholars such as Francis Fukuyama and Bradley Thayer, to help explain modern conflict. He discussed these two positions and introduced other arguments about the political structure of decision-making and the importance of colonisation and globalisation on generating conflict. Reference to Ukraine and our region was made throughout.


Richard Davis received his PhD in anthropology from the Australian National University in 2000 and is currently employed at the Centre for Defence Leadership and Ethics, Australian Defence College, since March 2021 where his job title is Head of Cross-Cultural Capability. In this position he provides teaching and learning across the ADF in cross-cultural capability as well as anthropological input into combat training exercise design. Prior to this position he held research fellowships across several Australian higher education institutions, completed a twelve year stint lecturing anthropology at the University of Western Australia, was appointed Senior Anthropologist at the Central Land Council and has provided anthropological reports for use in Australian native title claims for the Federal Government in cultural heritage assessment, and the British Museum in the repatriation of indigenous human remains. He has undertaken substantial ethnographic fieldwork with Indigenous Australians in several parts of Australia with focus on historical warfare in Torres Strait.