Mars turns to Minerva

7 July 2009 - 8 July 2009

CRASSH Seminar Room, 17 Mill Lane

Tarak Barkawi CIS, Cambridge (more info can be found here)
Dorothy Noyes, Ohio State University (more info can be found here)
Josef Ansorge, CIS, Cambridge

Conference summary

Since 9/11 governments have once again turned to the academy as a resource for dealing with a world of shifting threats and actors. Militaries are looking to scholars to help understand the new conflicts and theatres in which they are operating. As in the past with similar initiatives such as Project Camelot, this turn has generated heated debates over the ethics of scholarly cooperation with governments in times of war. The focus of this conference, however, is on what happens in the encounter between academic knowledges and military operations, between scholars and soldiers. Mars turns to Minerva looking for ideas, theories and facts that can be used as instruments, as tools to achieve pre-determined operational and strategic ends. For Minerva, as we find her idealized in ivory towers, the end for which one seeks knowledge is truth, not utility. In this conference, we seek to illuminate this space between ‘truth’ and ‘utility’, between knowledge and using knowledge, from the very different standpoints of Mars and Minerva.
We hope, in our various papers and discussions, to chart the tensions as well as the possible harmonies in this space. We will look at attempts to build bridges; at how academic knowledges are remade in this encounter; and at how those knowledges can transform militaries. Rather than seeking to collapse or overcome the gap between Mars and Minerva, we conceive of it as generative of new practices, relationships, and personalities in both the military and the academy. At the heart of the politics of knowledge in the twenty-first century lies a new set of characters, the scholar-soldier and the soldier-scholar. A young PhD student dies in an ambush in Afghanistan while serving as a ‘human terrain’ specialist with the US Army. Meanwhile, US officers study manuals cribbed from scholars and pour over ethnographic analyses of ‘tribes’. These encounters between Mars and Minerva also entail a new set of knowledge practices, such as efforts to make knowledges available to, and usable by, militaries; efforts to ‘protect’ knowledge form the military; and efforts by the military to incorporate scholarly ideas and findings into training, doctrine, and operations. In the course of all of this, new knowledges, facts, research strategies, and more are produced out of the encounter.
Conference participants have been drawn from the academy, the military, and the new class of graduate educated ‘consultants’ who directly advise the military in theatres of war. Topics to be discussed include, but are not limited to, the following:

• How knowledge is transformed in the encounter between Mars and Minerva; what happens to knowledge in trying to make it ‘useable’
• The tensions between academic and military cultures
• How individuals and organizations negotiate these tensions
• Past and present programs designed to mobilize scholars and graduates to assist the military or defence establishment, such as Projects Camelot and Minerva, or the Human Terrain System.
• Efforts by the military to utilize ideas and approaches that originated in the academy
• The ways in which Mars’ interest in Minerva produces new hierarchies and developments within academic disciplines, such as the upsurge in terrorism studies or the debates and divisions in anthropology in the wake of the Human Terrain System.
• Reports from the field by those who have had to negotiate the gap between Mars and Minerva
Speakers at the conference can present formal scholarly papers or offer oral presentations. This conference is part of a larger project that will include a second meeting at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies at Ohio State University. Some subset of the papers will be published in an edited volume. Subject to permission, oral presentations will be made available in video format on a dedicated website.

Conference speakers

Administrative contact:  Sam Mather, CRASSH


 Tuesday 7th July

9.30 - 10.00

Registration and tea and coffee

10.00 - 10.30

Welcome and introduction (Josef Ansorge and Tarak Barkawi)

10.30 - 12.30

Panel I - Mars in the 21st Century

Chair: Tarak Barkawi (University of Cambridge)

Ian Westerman (Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, (UK))
Why states fail and how civil-military intervention can re-create stability

Sean McFate (National Defence University (US))
Bridging the academic-military divide via doctrine: headway or hype?

Adam Silverman (US Army Human Terrain System)
Between Doctrine and Discipline: The Intersection of Military Applications of Social Science Concepts, Knowledge, and Research

Discussant: Rosemary Hollis (City University, London)

12.30 - 14.00


14.00 - 15.45 

Panel II - Locales (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan)

Chair: Duncan Bell (University of Cambridge)

Margaret Mills (Ohio State University)
An Afghan Fishing Expedition: PRT Personnel, Diplomats, Afghan Local Officials and Civilians on Military Local Knowledge Initiatives

Pervaiz Nazir (University of Cambridge)
On the uses of Ethnography and Anthropology: War and Control across the Durand Line

Glen Rangwala (University of Cambridge)

Discussant: Laleh Khalili (School of Oriental and African Studies, London)

15.45 - 16.15

Tea and coffee

16.15 - 18.00

Panel III - Minerva’s Methods

Chair: Dorothy Noyes (Ohio State University)

Simon Reay Atkinson (University of Cambridge)
Returning Science to the Social

Lisa Stampnitzky (University of California, Berkeley)
From “insurgency” to “terrorism”: the transformation of political violence in the 1970s

Nicola Perugini (University of Siena, Italy)
Between Bio–Economies and Necro–Economies: New Warfare, Humanitarianism and Science

Discussant: Ned Lebow (Dartmouth College)


Wednesday 8th July


9.00 - 10.45

Panel IV - Minerva in the Field I

Chair: Josef Ansorge (University of Cambridge)

Donald Bray (Deloitte Consulting)
An overview of social research methods in support of military operations in contemporary Afghanistan

Dave Beall (US Army)
The development and fate of local knowledge in modern counterinsurgencies: an overview of the military’s best efforts to understand the operating environment in Iraq and Afghanistan

Colleen Bell (University of Bristol)
War by other means: the problem of population and the civilianization of warfare in Coalition missions

Discussant: Tarak Barkawi (University of Cambridge)

10.45 - 11.15

Tea and coffee

11.15 -1300

Panel V - Minerva in the Field II

Chair: Lisa Smirl (University of Cambridge)

Roy Lindelauf and MWM Kitzen (Netherlands Defence Academy)
Winning the Minds: Exploring the Vital Role of Local Powerbrokers in Afghan Societal Networks

Huw Davies (Joint Services Command and Staff College (UK))
Know your friends and know your enemies: British Political, Social and Cultural Intelligence on Central Asian Populations in the Nineteenth Century

Laurie Rush (US Army Installation Management Command)
Adding Heritage Landscapes to the Cultural Curriculum

Discussant: Dorothy Noyes (Ohio State University)

13.00 - 14.00


14.00 - 15.45 

Panel VI - Critical Perspectives

Chair: Alex Anievas (University of Cambridge)

Matthew Ford (Kings College London)
"Creating facts on the ground" - Post positivism, critical thinking and the military engagement with the social sciences

David Matthews (Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (UK))
Expert Advice in Government Policy and Planning Processes: The quest for a comprehensive approach and the need for reflective practice

Josef Ansorge (University of Cambridge)
The New Spirit of War Field Manual

Discussant: Eyal Weizman (Goldsmiths College, University of London)

15.45 - 16.15 


16.15 -18.00

Panel VII - Reflections and Discussion

Chair: Tarak Barkawi (University of Cambridge)

Bradley Carter (US Army Command and General Staff College)
Rick Hermann (Ohio State University)
Ned Lebow (Dartmouth College)
Tony Milton (Commandant General Royal Marines (2002-2004))
Dorothy Noyes (Ohio State University)