Essay Archives

The Military and the Social Sciences

December 30th, 2008

Building Bridges and Communities

Submitted by Dr. Tom Mahnken, Department of Defense

The US government has always turned to the nation’s scholars and intellectuals for help in times of national crisis or emergency. Many of our most prized scholarly organizations today were born during previous conflicts. President Lincoln established the National Academy of Sciences amidst the Civil War. Likewise, President Wilson created the National Research Council during […]

December 11th, 2008

The Minerva Controversy; a Cautionary Tale

Submitted by Ron Robin, New York University

The Minerva initiative has elicited several warnings of creeping contamination. Hugh Gusterson describes Minerva as a lethal vector not unlike the cancer-spreading tobacco industry’s contagion of health research. Katherine Lutz defines defense related funding as a malignant disease; “whole subfields have atrophied and others metastasized.” Priya Satia agrees that the separation of the delicate academic […]

November 19th, 2008

Minerva: Unclipping the Owl’s Wings

Submitted by Ronald R. Krebs, University of Minnesota

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ announcement last April of a new initiative, named Minerva, after the Roman goddess of war and wisdom and intended to cultivate a new relationship between the Defense Department and the academic social science disciplines, has been met with a hail of criticism. There is indeed much to criticize—from DoD’s truncated […]

November 14th, 2008

Minerva and Critical Public Engagement

Submitted by Robert Albro, American University

There are a myriad of reasons for the social sciences to be skeptical of developing closer working relationships with the military by cashing in on new opportunities like the Minerva Initiative, most obviously the possibility of a further militarization of academia. Anthropologists, in particular, have been vocal about their concerns — concerns that should be […]

November 10th, 2008

Scholars and Security

Submitted by Paul Bracken, Yale University

The results of U.S. national security policy since 9/11 speak for themselves. There’s little point for me to throw more gasoline on this fire. My bet is that had the results of the last eight years been better than they were, there would be no Project Minerva, the Department of Defense’s program to support social […]

October 29th, 2008

The Military-Social Science Interface

Submitted by Ian Roxborough, Stony Brook University

If social scientists are to have a more effective engagement with the military we need to understand them better. It is not enough simply to produce research, package it, and hand it over to be used by the military. We should think about how it will be appropriated by them. Let me first argue the […]

October 27th, 2008

Should the social sciences contribute to the art of war in the era of securitization? Or to the crafting of peace?

Submitted by Alain Joxe, École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS)

This paper suggests that one should pause and think before rushing to accept research programs devised by the military, especially in a period of acute strategic crisis. The dubious idea that could come to mind is: “it is always better than nothing, and after all we accept private funds that are oriented by profit-seeking, and […]

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 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 […]

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