Culture in Conflict: Symposium

eventsEvent date: 12 -14 June 2013

Location: Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, Shrivenham

This conference explores two overall and complementary themes: the Military’s need to understand the nature of culture and its effects on operations, and the potential contribution of those who study culture to improve that understanding. These themes are entwined so that each feeds off and informs the other. It is therefore of interest both to those who plan and execute military operations and to those who are interested in the study of culture and in the practical application of cultural studies.

A strong thread that has become more apparent in recent years in this area is Cultural Heritage.  We believe that this aspect includes both those elements of heritage that take the form of physical, tangible entities that can all too easily be violated or destroyed by military action, and the intangible aspects of culture such as music, dance, language, dialect, stories, poetry and drama which can wither away in the dislocation that comes with conflict.

Having concentrated largely on current operations over the first three years of this symposium, last year we encouraged delegates to look further into the future in the light of developing events and a generally shrinking investment in Defence.  This year we wish to go further still and look for generalizable principles from what we learned in recent years – if that is possible.  For example, can the lessons learned so far about culture in conflict be applied for future situations?  If so, how?  How can we capture the present and past experience of culture in conflict in a way that avoids repeating it?  How can we go about effective protection of Cultural Heritage? How can we understand the culture of future allies when we do not know who all of them will be with any certainty?  Are particular cases so particular that lessons to do with culture in those conflicts will always be relevant only to their own context? The Symposium subtitle this year is therefore ‘From Particular Experience to General Principles?

How can you contribute?

Priority will be given to papers that address the Symposium subtitle and particularly those that include Cultural Heritage and its Protection. However, papers are also invited on all subjects connecting military and cultural issues, including, for example, what are the military/cultural interfaces in humanitarian and disaster relief, peace keeping and stabilization operations? How can these interfaces be managed by civilian and by military organizations working in the same area? The following other areas have been suggested, but the list is not exhaustive:

  • Case studies: Military experiences of culture; the effects of differing cultures in operations (including cooperation with allies, host nations, NGOs, local people and institutions) as well as the military need to understand culture better.
  • Experiences from the field from both military and social science perspectives.
  • Cultural issues in transforming from conscript to professional military structures, and  their potential effect on operations.

If you wish to submit a paper, please complete the Abstract Submission Form and return it, together with your abstract of about 300 words, by 15 April 2013. Papers should be planned to take 20 minutes followed by questions.

Who will be there?

This symposium, as one of a series of Symposia at Shrivenham, builds on the well-proven format which brings together representatives from Military Staffs, Government Agencies and Academic Institutions in a relaxed atmosphere within the surroundings of the Defence Academy. The presenters at this conference will include military decision makers, planning and operational staffs, and experts in culture. Delegates are invited from any organization where the intricate issues of military operations are affected by cultural considerations and have to be integrated with them. Time is planned into the programme to allow formal and informal discussions both in the main lecture theatre and during breaks for coffee, lunch and tea, and during the delegates’ reception and buffet supper. Delegates will thus have an opportunity to hear cutting edge presentations and to network and discuss issues with their professional peers who are addressing the challenges involved in the topics raised in the symposium. We operate under the Chatham House Rule.

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