81 episodes

How do war stories work? And what do they do to us? Join University of St Andrews historian Alice König and colleagues 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 historian Alice König and colleagues 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.

    Peace and Politics with Lord Jim Wallace

    Peace and Politics with Lord Jim Wallace

    In this episode, Visualising Peace researcher Harris Siderfin interviews Lord Jim Wallace, Baron Wallace of Tankerness, about his career and the relationship between peace and politics in the UK.

    Lord Wallace is a Scottish Liberal Democrat politician with a long career of service in the House of Commons, the Scottish Parliament and the House of Lords, where he has been a life peer since 2007. He has held various ministerial positions during his time in government, including Deputy First Minister of Scotland, acting First Minister twice, Justice Minister and Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Minister. He trained initially in law, and in addition to his political career he is an advocate and member of the King's Council. He served as Advocate General for Scotland between 2010 and 2015, and he was Deputy Leader of the House of Lords from 2013 to 2015. He stood down as leader of the Liberal Democrat peers in the House of Lords in 2016 but retains an interest in human rights and constitutional affairs. Among other roles, he served as Moderator of the General Assembly of Scotland in 2021.

    In the episode, Lord Wallace reflects on his long career in politics and on the various ways in which he has seen politics and peacemaking intersect over that time. He reflects on the lack of political interest in solving conflict in Northern Ireland prior to John Major's premiership; on political debates about the first and second Gulf Wars, the renewal of Trident (as a nuclear deterrent), the UK's response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria; and on the limited discussions in Westminster about ways to address conflict in the Balkans, particularly in Bosnia.  Lord Wallace is clear that peace is not as high a priority in political debates and campaigning as many other issues, and also that political understanding and discussion of peace-making (as opposed to peace-keeping) is somewhat lacking.

    Lord Wallace and Harris consider positive steps forward: for instance, more attention paid to justice, equality, mental health, climate change, poverty and discrimination, as key aspects of peacebuilding. Reflecting on his own faith, Lord Wallace also talks about the role that different religions and religious leaders can play in promoting peace both at home and abroad. Several times the conversation also turns to connections between democracy, debate and peacebuilding, with Lord Wallace stressing that increasingly combative, polarising modes of political discussion are driving more conflict. This ties into some work which the Visualising Peace team is doing on connections between peacebuilding and Responsible Debate (as outlined in the Young Academy of Scotland's Responsible Debate Charter). 

    We hope you find the discussion interesting. 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 Harris Siderfin and Zofia Guertin

    • 46 min
    Children, Childhoods and Child-Soldiering: critical lenses on war

    Children, Childhoods and Child-Soldiering: critical lenses on war

    In this podcast Alice interviews Dr Jana Tabak, an Assistant Professor at the Department of International Relations at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. Jana’s work focuses on children’s experiences of conflict in both the global south and the global north, and also on the role that our conceptions of childhood play in our habits of visualising war – and, indeed, in how our habits of visualising war shape how we view children and childhoods. More broadly she is interested in children’s political subjecthood and their ‘political becoming’: how ideas of children get deployed in global politics, how children’s agency as political actors gets constrained by adult frameworks, and what children can contribute to politics (and particularly to discussions of war and peace) when mechanisms for their inclusion work better.

    Together with Marshall Beier, Jana has edited two influential volumes on Children, Childhoods and Everyday Militarisms (in 2020) and on Childhoods in Peace and Conflict in 2021. These draw attention to the multiplicity of both real and imagined childhoods, and how different militarisms intersect with and inform different childhoods around the world. Some of Jana’s published work focuses particularly on representations and conceptions of child soldiering in different parts of the world. In 2020 she published a monograph called The Child and the World: Child-Soldiers and the Claim for Progress, along with a range of other articles on related topics; and her current project is looking specifically at recruitment of junior soldiers in the UK.

    The episode begins with discussion of our norms of visualising children and childhood, particularly how concepts of children/childhood get constructed in and for global politics. Jana stresses that such habits tend to exclude children as political subjects in the present, while including them as potential citizens in the future. More worryingly still, Jana notes, the reduction of conceptions of childhood to one idealised model can end up 'othering' children whose childhoods (through no fault of their own) differ from standard/Western expectations.

    We consider the tendency, when visualising children-in-war, to regard them as ‘passive skins’,  victims with no agency to shape their own fate; and we also ask how this shapes our understandings of war and conflict, not just views of children and/as victims. Jana helps us look critically at the many forms of militarism which touch different children's lives, and we spend some time considering how 'child soldiers' tend to be visualised, in comparison with junior recruits to (e.g.) the UK's armed forces. Along the way, Jana stresses the importance of doing research with children as co-producers of knowledge, and of exploring the blurred/maleable boundaries of both childhood and war.

    We hope you find the discussion interesting. 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

    • 53 min
    Transitional place-making: Palestinian refugee experiences in Lebanon

    Transitional place-making: Palestinian refugee experiences in Lebanon

    This episode is a follow-up to an earlier conversation with Anne Lene Stein which focused on peace activism in Israel and Palestine.  We invited her back onto the podcast to share another important strand of research with us, based on her recent work with Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

    As several of our other episodes discuss, forced displacement is a recurring legacy of conflict all around the world. In recent years, wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Ukraine, the DRC and Sudan (to name just a few) have displaced millions of people from their homes; and in recent months hundreds of thousands more people have been displaced within Gaza, sometimes multiple times. This is not a new phenomenon; as Anne underlines, Palestinians have been seeking sanctuary in many different places, for many years - including in Lebanon, where some Palestinians have been living as refugees for multiple generations.

    Anne begins the conversation by explaining what drove so many Palestinian refugees to Lebanon in the first place, over 70 years ago; and how many continue to live in supposedly temporary refugee camps around the country. She describes the challenging living conditions in these camps, the lack of freedom and rights for their inhabitants, and the ways in which the camps are governed and controlled by both internal and external forces.

    This leads to a particular focus of Anne's research: how young people, born and raised in these camps, construct their identities and visualise their futures. For many displaced Palestinians, retaining refugee status is crucial in holding on to the right to return home some day; but this comes with significant costs, perpetuating poverty and disenfranchisement. Anne discusses some of the ways in which young people in refugee camps in Lebanon try to overcome the stigma attached to being displaced, pushing back against dominant narratives; how they use different media and methods to imagine 'home' in new ways, overcoming the 'politics of temporality'; and how they employ everyday acts of resistance to exercise agency and take more control over their lives. This gets us talking about peace imaginaries as well as habits of visualising forced displacement.

    We end the episode by considering what lessons we might learn from the experiences of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon as we seek better ways to support people newly displaced by conflict. As Anne underlines, we need to find political - not just humanitarian - solutions; and we should invest in solutions that maximise refugee rights and avoid re-victimising people.

    We hope you find the discussion interesting. 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

    • 46 min
    AI-enabled military technologies: technology, ethics, trust, storytelling

    AI-enabled military technologies: technology, ethics, trust, storytelling

    In this podcast Alice interviews two guests, both based at the US Army War College and both researching AI-enabled military technologies. LTC Dr Paul Lushenko is the Director of Special Operations and a Faculty Instructor in the U.S. Army War College’s Department of Military Strategy, Planning, and Operations. Paul has combined an academic career with regular military deployments, directing intelligence operations at the Battalion, Combined Task Force, and Joint Task Force levels. He is the co-editor of Drones and Global Order: Implications of Remote Warfare for International Society (2022), which studies the implications of drone warfare on global politics. With colleague Shyam Raman he has also co-authored Legitimacy of Drone Warfare: Evaluating Public Perceptions (Routledge in 2024), which explores public’s perceptions of legitimate drone strikes.

    Dr Jerilyn Packer is an award-winning educator, specialising in the US military school system. Twelve years ago she transitioned into educational leadership, which enables her to engage in reflective practices and collaborative coaching with district and school leaders in the Department of Defense Education Activity. Skilled in strategic planning, professional learning, and data analysis, she partners with senior leaders to identify educational gaps and craft targeted solutions to improve achievement. Dr. Packer is currently running a research project which uses interviews and focus groups among senior officers to determine what shapes their trust in AI-enabled military technologies. Going forward, she hopes to employ this research in an upcoming role within the Senior Executive Service, so her findings will have broad policy impact.

    Paul and Jerilyn help us grapple with recent technological developments in warfare which have huge implications for how governments, militaries and the public visualise conflict – and indeed peacekeeping – now and in the future. Indeed, as Paul’s 2022 edited volume underlines, drone warfare and AI require us to rethink the structural and normative pillars of global order. Between them, they discuss recent developments in drones and AI technologies; their increasing incorporation into military arsenals, strategy and practice; barriers to their use such as concerns around ethics, governance and trust; and the ways in which they are changing our habits of visualising war itself.

    Among other topics, we touch on the dehumanising, racist and colonial dimensions of drone warfare; the moral questions posed by asymmetric/'riskless'/'post-heroic' conflict; and connections between Greek myths, dystopian science fiction and the new war-storytelling patterns that are increasingly inspired by AI. This episode offers important reflections, based on both Paul and Jerilyn's research, into the challenges and concerns of professionals who find themselves in an often 'uneasy partnership' with emerging military technologies, and poses critical questions about wider public understandings and perceptions.

    We hope you find the discussion interesting. Paul dives deeper into these important topics in recent articles 'Trust but Verify' and 'AI and the future of warfare'.  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 17 min
    Visualising action: pre-battle speeches in ancient Judaism

    Visualising action: pre-battle speeches in ancient Judaism

    In this episode, Alice interviews Dr Joseph Scales, a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow in the department of Religion, Philosophy and History at the University of Agder in Norway. This podcast is the second part of a pair looking at the history and representation of conflict in ancient Judea. 

    In part 1, Conflict and Identity in Ancient Judaism, Joe gave us a whirlwind tour of a whole series of conflicts that shaped Jewish history from around 175 BCE through to the early second century CE – looking particularly at their impact on Jewish nationhood and identity formation. That conversation provides really useful context for this epsiode, which dives deep into some of the textual sources for Jewish conflict history in antiquity. Joe draws particularly on his current research project, called Fighting Talk: Motivating Violence in Ancient Judaism, which examines the nature of pre-battle speeches in ancient Jewish texts and their relationship to established forms of pre-battle exhortation in Greek and Roman sources. 
    As Joe has written: ‘People resort to violence for all kinds of reasons. In the interests of peace, it is essential to understand how people may be incited toward organised violence. …In warfare, combatants are often incited towards their actions by others, and in the ancient world, such incitement frequently took the form of a pre-battle speech: Greek, Roman and Jewish literature contains many examples.’ In unpicking a wide range of ancient pre-battle speeches, and exploring recurring components (such as the othering of enemies, claims about the just or necessary nature of upcoming violence, a commander’s handling of his soldiers’ fears, and visualisations of success), Joe’s research contributes not only to a deeper understanding of how warfare was conceptualised and driven in antiquity but also to wider reflections on how organised violence can be conceptualised, justified and incited today.

    We hope you find the discussion interesting. 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

    • 52 min
    Conflict and Identity in ancient Judaism

    Conflict and Identity in ancient Judaism

    In this episode, Alice interviews Dr Joseph Scales, a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow in the department of Religion, Philosophy and History at the University of Agder in Norway. Joe’s doctoral research analysed spaces of Jewish identity in ancient Galilee, looking particularly at the impact of material culture on personal, communal and regional identity formation during the Hasmonean dynasty, from 100 BCE onwards. His book Galiliean Spaces of Identity will be published in 2024.    
    Joe’s work on Jewish and Hellenistic identities, and their cross-cultural interactions, has led to further research on ancient Jewish texts written in Greek, which enable us to understand aspects of the shared culture of the ancient Mediterranean world; and he has become very interested in women’s practices and rituals in Judaism. Both of these research interests feed into his current project, called Fighting Talk: Motivating Violence in Ancient Judaism, which examines the nature of pre-battle speeches in ancient Jewish texts and their relationship to established forms of pre-battle exhortation in Greek and Roman sources.

    Because the politics of the region in this period are so complex, we have recorded a Part 1 and a Part 2 for this podcast. In this episode, Part 1, Joe  talks us through Jewish interactions with other groups and political powers in the region from around 175BCE to the early 2nd century CE – to help us understand the history of Judea and Jerusalem, and the ways in which ongoing conflict (near and far) shaped Jewish practice and identity, not just at the time but for many centuries afterwards. In Part 2 (which we hope you will also listen to, because it’s super interesting!), Joe  dives deep into some of the textual sources from the period, looking particularly at the ways in which they visualised battle itself and justified war.

    We hope you find the discussion interesting. 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

    • 35 min

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