55 episodes

How do war stories work? And what do they do to us? Join University of St Andrews historians Alice König and Nicolas Wiater as they explore how war and peace get presented in art, text, film and music. With the help of expert guests, they unpick conflict stories from all sorts of different periods and places. And they ask how the tales we tell and the pictures we paint of peace and war influence us as individuals and shape the societies we live in.

Visualising War and Peace The University of St Andrews

    • Arts
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How do war stories work? And what do they do to us? Join University of St Andrews historians Alice König and Nicolas Wiater as they explore how war and peace get presented in art, text, film and music. With the help of expert guests, they unpick conflict stories from all sorts of different periods and places. And they ask how the tales we tell and the pictures we paint of peace and war influence us as individuals and shape the societies we live in.

    Generation Peace: the power of storytelling in peace education

    Generation Peace: the power of storytelling in peace education

    In this episode, student Harris Siderfin (a member of the Visualising Peace project) explores the role that youth-focused storytelling can play in reducing conflict and promoting the building blocks of a peaceful society. His guest is Rob Burnet, founder and CEO of Shujaaz Inc, a  multimedia youth platform based in Kenya that aims to help improve the lives and livelihoods of young people across East Africa.

    Among other activities, Shujaaz Inc distributes a free monthly comic, produces radio programmes, creates TV shows, and runs social media accounts based on the popular characters featured in its comics - using Sheng, a contemporary slang favoured by many young people in Kenya. The stories they tell across different media revolve around a 19-year old radio DJ and influencer, living on the outskirts of Nairobi. The DJ uses his media platform to bring young people together to talk about their experiences, the changes they want to make and the barriers that are standing in their way, spotlighting the stories of young ‘shujaaz’ ('heroes') who are creating change in their lives. Addressing issues such as gender inequality, reproductive health, local government, human rights, fake news, and political violence, Shujaaz reaches over 9.1 million 15–24-year-olds across East Africa, connecting them with information, skills, and resources they need to take charge of their lives. The Television Academy has recognised the company twice, awarding two Emmys, one in 2012 and another in 2014.

    How does Shujaaz relate to peace-building? As Rob and Harris discuss, storytelling can lead to behaviour-change. The characters created by Shujaaz speak directly to young people, sharing alternative ways of thinking, opening up new possibilities, building shared identities, and challenging and shifting social norms. Research has shown that young people who engage with Shujaaz are more likely than their peers to use contraception, thanks to the role models they encounter via these media; that they translate the financial wisdom which Shujaaz characters share into tangible improvements in their own lives; and that they are better informed about the strategies used by gangs and terrorist groups such as Al-Shabaab to recruit vulnerable young people to their cause - among many other benefits. These attitude and behaviour changes are fundamental in building a more secure, peaceful future for individuals and communities. 'Peace education aspires to enable students to become responsible citizens... who can deconstruct the foundations of violence and take action to advance the prospects of peace.' (Swiss Peace, 2021).  This is exactly what Shujaaz does, in teaching young people to develop positive mindsets, support themselves, and embrace peaceful ideals. 

    We hope you enjoy listening to Rob and Harris discuss Shujaaz's approach to storytelling as a powerful example of peace education. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. And for more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews' Visualising War website.

    Music composed by Jonathan Young
    Sound mixing by Zofia Guertin

    • 53 min
    Peace and Conflict in Space

    Peace and Conflict in Space

    In this week’s episode, two students from our Visualising Peace project - Harris Siderfin and Otilia Meden - talk to experts on space security.

    Dr Adam Bower is a Senior Lecturer in the School of International Relations and Co-director of the Centre for Global Law and Governance. His research examines the intersection of international politics and law, and particularly the development, implementation, and transformation of international norms regulating the use of armed violence. He is currently undertaking a long-term research project that assesses the development of new international governance mechanisms to regulate military space operations. Dr Bower is a Fellow of the Outer Space Institute, a global network of transdisciplinary space experts, and in that capacity is involved in a number of OSI research and advocacy efforts relating to outer space security.

    Wg Cdr Sas Duffin joined the RAF in 2005, and began working in the Space and Battlespace Management Force in Jul 2018, developing strategy and training for Space Operations.  She became a Qualified Space Instructor (QSI) in Feb 2020 before heading to Defence Academy Shrivenham where she obtained an MA in Defence Studies, writing a thesis on the ‘Language and Narrative of Space: Why Words Matter’. Joining UK Space Command in Jul 21 as the Senior Space Liaison Officer, she has developed a network of Space Liaison Officers (SpLOs) across Defence to aid in the awareness and integration of space in wider military planning and operations.

    Sqn Ldr Stu Agnew is a Scottish-qualified solicitor serving in the Royal Air Force Legal Services. Following qualification as a solicitor in 2014, he moved to specialise in corporate and commercial law before joining the Royal Air Force in January 2016. He was selected to be the first Legal Adviser within UK Space Command following its establishment on 1 April 2021. In this role, he provides legal advice on all of the Command's outputs. His remit includes advising on the development of doctrine and wider Defence outputs centred on space. Sponsored by the Royal Air Force, he obtained a Masters' degree in International Aviation Law & Regulation from Staffordshire University in 2020. His dissertation focused on the boundary between airspace and outer space under international law, or more accurately the absence of one.

    In the episode, Harris, Otilia and their guests discuss why and how security in outer space is important for people living on earth. They reflect on the development and implementation of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, and the spirit of international collaboration that underpins it. They also look at increasing activity in space by private corporations as well as nation-states, at the increasing militarisation of space, at the potential for growing conflict in space, and at the consequences of that for ordinary lives. Among other questions, they ask:
    Who are the primary state and non-state actors in outer space today? What dangers does conflict in space present and why should we, as individuals, care? How does peace in space help maintain peace on earth? And how can peace in space be promoted, improved and maintained?How can we best visualise peace in space when outer space itself is so difficult to conceptualise? We hope you enjoy the episode. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews' Visualising War website.

    Music composed by Jonathan Young
    Sound mixing by Zofia Guertin

    • 1 hr 22 min
    The Militarisation of Childhood with J. Marshall Beier

    The Militarisation of Childhood with J. Marshall Beier

    This episode continues our mini-series looking at how children are socialised into recurring habits of visualising war and peace. Alice interviews Prof. J. Marshall Beier, who is Undergraduate Chair in the Department of Political Science at McMaster University. In the course of a distinguished career, Marshall's research has focused particularly on how children and childhood get conceived in political contexts, and what impact that can have on their political involvement as well as on their lives more broadly. In the course of this research, Marshall has published extensively on the militarisation of childhood and well as child and youth rights and youth political participation. Notable publications include edited volumes such as The Militarisation of Childhood: Thinking beyond the Global South (2011), Discovering Childhood in International Relations (2020), and – with Jana Tabak – Childhoods in Peace and Conflict (2021).

    We begin the podcast by looking at how children are militarised in many different ways - from their recruitment as child soldiers, to more 'benign' forms of cadet training, to messaging in society about the pervasiveness of threats (leading to an understanding that citizens need protection via the military), to the ways in which leisure spaces such as museums, airshows and online gaming can promote the 'cult of the hero' and inculcate wider military values, such as resilience, courage, or the idea that certain wars are 'good' while others are 'bad'. Marshall draws attention to 'militarism's ambient cacophony' - by which he means that the promotion of different kinds of military activity is all around us - and to the fact that as children grow up, they are exposed to many different kinds of pedagogies (formal and informal) which both normalise and naturalise war. This indirect 'enlistment' is vital to governments who, in time, may ask the adults that children become to sanction military spending and military deployments.

    Marshall also discusses the concept of 'childhood' itself, and differences between 'the imagined child' and children as political agents, subjects, knowledge-bearers and knowledge-producers.  We examine typical representations of children affected by conflict, and the ways in which images of their victimhood and vulnerability are often leveraged as 'a technology of governance' - in other words, used by politicians and others to shape wider attitudes and policy. Marshall underlines how flexible a category 'child' can be, however, and how governments and militaries can 'evacuate' certain age groups from this category when they see them as a threat, deeming them e.g. 'military-age males'.  He notes that states and militaries sometimes also ask children to 'do the work of adults': for instance by conducting surveillance, or being resilient when they lose a parent to conflict. And he draws on his work with the McMaster Youth and Children University to discuss how we might take a more rights-based approach to engaging with children around war and peace, empowering them to contribute to debate and discussion, rather than side-lining or even exploiting them.

    We hope you enjoy the episode. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews' Visualising War website. 

    Music composed by Jonathan Young
    Sound mixing by Zofia Guertin

    • 1 hr 24 min
    Visualising Young People as Peacemakers with Helen Berents

    Visualising Young People as Peacemakers with Helen Berents

    In this podcast Alice interviews Dr Helen Berents, a senior research fellow in the School of Justice at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.

    Helen’s research focuses on the involvement of children and young people in international conflict and peace-building processes, and she advocates strongly for wider recognition of their contributions and capacities in navigating violence and building peace. Her book Young People and Everyday Peace explores the presence and influence of youth voices in everyday efforts to respond to ongoing violence and insecurity in a small community in Soacha, Colombia. She has also looked at adult representations of children and young people in contexts of crisis and conflict, comparing them with the stories that young people tell themselves when given the chance. Helen is currently working on a project funded by the Australian Research Council on Youth Leadership and the Future of Peace and Security, exploring the role of youth-led advocacy and engagement in building more inclusive, durable forms of peace in different parts of the world. One aim is to improve the ways in which young people are supported and empowered in conflict-affected contexts; another is to develop new recommendations for the involvement of young people in peace and security policies in future.

    In the podcast Helen discusses widespread assumptions about children and childhood, which condition us to view them as victims in need of protection rather than as experts or agents in peace-building contexts. As Helen explains, it is important to be mindful of their potential vulnerabilities; but this can be compatible with recognising their lived experiences of conflict as valuable forms of expertise. We discuss the places where children are typically thought to 'belong' in times of war and peace, the images of child victims of conflict that often go viral, and the long-running marginalisation of their voices. But we also consider the work that young people have been doing in many different parts of the world to make their voices heard, and the impact of the UN's Youth, Peace and Security agenda.

    Along the way, Helen talks about the differences between 'liberal', top-down peace and grassroots, 'everyday' peace. Citing Veena Das and Christine Sylvester among others, Helen explains why we cannot simply study war and peace 'from the high places' (i.e. solely from the perspective of governments or abstract ideals) and why we need a 'descent into the ordinary' to excavate multiple lived experiences of violence and peace-building rooted in the everyday. Above all, Helen invites practitioners and policy-makers to consider what changes adults need to implement to make more space for children in different peace-building contexts, including recalibrating what 'expertise' looks like and ceding power to young people. We hope you enjoy the episode!

    You can find out more about Helen's work here. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. Please visit the University of St Andrews Visualising War website for more information about our project. 

    Music composed by Jonathan Young
    Sound mixing by Zofia Guertin

    • 1 hr 18 min
    Civilian Resistance in Ukraine, 2014-2022, with Olga Boichak

    Civilian Resistance in Ukraine, 2014-2022, with Olga Boichak

    Alice's guest on this podcast is Dr Olga Boichak, a Ukrainian-born sociologist who works as a lecturer in Digital Cultures at the University of Sydney.

    Editor of the Digital War Journal, Olga’s particular research interest is the war-media nexus. She has spent years studying participatory warfare in Ukraine, looking at how civilians have used mobile media and open-source intelligence to engage remotely in military conflict; and also at how digital media have been facilitating grassroots activism, from local military crowd-funding to the development of transnational humanitarian aid networks. Her research helps us understand the symbiotic relationship between digital and real-world activities: not just how war and digital media shape each other, but how digitally-driven volunteer movements that emerge in wartime can have longer-term effects on civil society development and broader institutional change.

    In the podcast, Olga discusses the 'reflexive control' that Russia has long tried to exert over Ukraine since its independence in 1991. She then reflects on the long history of 'productive resistance' that ordinary Ukrainians have engaged in, which over the years has helped to forge a stronger sense of collective identity and shared civic values. She discusses the many forms of civic participation in military activity that have evolved since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, and this gets us talking about blurred boundaries between war and peace, about people's proximity to and distance from conflict, and about the ethical dilemmas surrounding involvement and non-involvement.

    Along the way, we discuss the role that digital media have played in the conflict in Ukraine. Olga analyses Russia's use of social media from 2014 onwards, in particular their efforts to convince the wider world that people in Donbas have long had strong separatist leanings. She  explains how social media activists in Mariupol helped to disrupt that message back in 2014, which is perhaps why Russia has been so determined to conquer Mariupol in 2022. 

    We also talk about the ways in which social media have facilitated a range of humanitarian responses to the war in Ukraine - and how social media have been shaping our understanding and perception of the conflict more broadly. In many ways, our twitter feeds are full of very conventional pictures of war (tanks, bombed out buildings, soldiers firing weapons), reinforcing long-established habits of visualising conflict. At the same time, more innovative  forms of data visualisation (such as stats on the length of time people are spending in bomb shelters each day) are helping us to grasp the 'slow violence' of conflict on civilian populations.  New trends in representation are emerging all the time, challenging the traditional metrics we have long used to assess the costs of war and offering us different conceptual frameworks for understanding what is going on.

    Olga has family in Ukraine, so we talked a little about what they have been going through. If you are moved by anything you hear, please consider donating to organisations such as the Ukraine Crisis Appeal and UNICEF's Ukraine appeal.

    For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews Visualising War website. 

    Music composed by Jonathan Young
    Sound mixing by Zofia Guertin

    • 1 hr 8 min
    How can children and young people help us re-visualise war?

    How can children and young people help us re-visualise war?

    Please note: this episode was recorded before recent events in Ukraine. We stand in solidarity with everyone caught up in this terrible conflict, and our thoughts are particularly with its youngest victims. Children's voices on conflict matter more than ever at present.

    This episode is no. 50 in the series! Listeners might remember that our first guest on the podcast was Lady Lucy French, the founder of Never Such Innocence, an organisation which gives children and young people a voice on conflict. In this episode, Alice interviews three Never Such Innocence Ambassadors - Molly Meleady-Hanley, Jasleen Singh, and Vasko Stamboliev - to help kick-start a new Visualising War project looking at the forces that influence young people's habits of visualising both war and peace. 

    In this new project we will be collaborating with a wide range of researchers in childhood studies, critical security studies, peace studies and futures thinking, to build an extensive network of academics and practitioners to ask some of the following questions:
    What kinds of war stories are children of different ages most regularly exposed to in different parts of the world (through films, gaming, school curricula, local folklore, graffiti, news reports, and so on)? What aspects of war dominate the narratives that children are exposed to? And what narratives about war’s aftermath, conflict transformation and peace-building tend to circulate in the media that children most frequently engage with?What do children and young people think about dominant modes of representing war and peace in different media? How do they describe the impact which different narratives of war and peace have had on them? And how differently might they represent or narrate war, conflict transformation and peace, if they were in charge of the storytelling themselves? Finally, what impact can children’s voices have on entrenched adult habits of visualising war and peace, both now and in the future?In the podcast, Molly, Jasleen and Vasko share their memories of the war stories they grew up with, and they reflect on how war and peace were taught in the different school systems (in Greece, Serbia, Australia, Ireland and England) which they were part of. We dive into the poems, speeches and artwork which they have authored themselves, to express their own views on conflicts past, present and future. We discuss what impact children's perspectives can have in helping all of us re-visualise conflict from many different angles. And they explain how empowering it has been to have their voices heard, thanks to Never Such Innocence. Their experiences underline the vital importance of involving children in conversations about war and peace, and we celebrate the amazing work done by Never Such Innocence in bringing young people from all around their world into dialogue with each other and in giving them opportunities to address world leaders in lots of different places, from Buckingham Palace to the Bundestag. 
    We hope you enjoy the episode! You can read Molly and Jasleen's poems and see Vasko's artwork in this blog, and you can find out more about Never Such Innocence via their website.

    For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews Visualising War website. 

    Music composed by Jonathan Young
    Sound mixing by Zofia Guertin

    • 1 hr 7 min

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