Essay Archives

All Essays

October 27th, 2008

Possibilities for Partnerships?

Submitted by Victor P. Corona, Columbia University

Four years ago, Berkeley sociologist Michael Burawoy called for a “public sociology” that increased interaction between publics and sociologists.[1] The idea encountered both vigorous opposition[2] and support from researchers eager for activist roles. Commenting on the issue, SSRC President Craig Calhoun questioned some of Burawoy’s assumptions but agreed that the discipline should “engage and be […]

October 20th, 2008

'Operations other than War': The Politics of Academic Scholarship in the 21st Century

Submitted by David Nugent, Emory University

Among the many serious concerns raised by the Minerva project is the autonomy and impartiality of the academic domain — and the conditions that variously promote or threaten to undermine that autonomy.[1] In general terms, it is tempting to regard military efforts to shape academic knowledge as a threat to the production of uncompromised, impartial […]

October 17th, 2008

The Forgotten History of Knowledge and Power in British Iraq, or Why Minerva's Owl Cannot Fly

Submitted by Priya Satia, Stanford University

In its lofty attempt to restore wisdom to war, Project Minerva promises to harness the formidable intellectual powers of the American university to the anti-intellectual gambits of the “war on terror.” Darkness has fallen, and the initiative heralds the proverbial flight of Minerva’s owl; the DoD has finally confessed it is out of its depth […]

October 9th, 2008

Making Sense of Minerva Controversy and the NSCC

Submitted by Thomas Asher, Social Science Research Council

The Department of Defense, under Robert M. Gates, recently announced the creation of the Minerva Research Initiative, which would provide grants approaching an estimated $18 million in 2009 and as much as $75 million over five years to support social science research “focusing on areas of strategic importance to U.S. national security policy.”[1] The initiative […]

October 9th, 2008

Skewing Scholarship

Submitted by Conor Gearty, Centre for the Study of Human Rights-LSE

It strikes me immediately that the Minerva project represents simultaneously something of an advance and also a retreat. On the one hand it is a sign of progress that those engaged in the management of American ‘security’ (as they conceive the term) regard it as no longer possible to rely simply on the imposition of […]

October 9th, 2008

Pentagon Priorities and the Minerva Program

Submitted by John Tirman, MIT Center for International Studies

The Defense Department’s Minerva program stirs many interesting debates, and among them should be what the program says about the government’s assessment of security threats to the United States. It is not a satisfying picture. Of the five major program interests articulated by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the program guidelines, three of them […]

October 9th, 2008


Submitted by Faisal Devji, The New School

If it were merely about creating links between universities and the military that might compromise academic freedom, the Minerva Initiative would be of no particular interest. For there exists a long history of such interactions, whose heroic moments belong to the Cold War and include the establishment of funding bodies for studying languages, cultures and […]

October 9th, 2008

Unveiling Minerva

Submitted by Hugh Gusterson, George Mason University

Let’s try a thought experiment. Imagine you are a researcher in epidemiology. You are interested in finding out whether restrictions on smoking in bars and restaurants, recently adopted by a number of cities, have had any effect on the incidence of respiratory ailments probably connected to secondhand smoke. To do this, you need funding. The […]

Social Science Research Council - One Pierrepont Plaza, 15th Floor | Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA | P: 212.377.2700 | F: 212.377.2727 | E: