7 Jul 2009 - 8 Jul 2009 All day 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



Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk