Training: ‘Researching Conflict in the Humanities’

CHASE DTP-Funded Training Programme

Researching Conflict in the Humanities: Challenges, Practices and Methods

Organised by Ana-Maria Milcic and Erica Payet, Courtauld Institute of Art.

This student-led training is designed for young researchers focusing on topics related to modern and contemporary wars and conflicts, specifically young scholars in the arts and humanities studying conflicts from the First World War to the present, regardless of geographical location. The programme of events will strive to question, concretely and productively, the positionality of the researcher, and explore the most current approaches in the study of conflict in different disciplines.

A series of half-day events will interrogate the crucial disciplinary and methodological issues that arise when dealing with such contentious objects of study, especially as their historical significance still resonates today. Drawing from feminism, Marxism, queer and post-colonial theory, reading groups will provide a framework for discussion and exploration. They will be supported and led in a variety of ways: by emerging scholars sharing their research and experience of self-reflexivity; key texts read ahead of the sessions; other activities such as film screenings and exhibition visits. We will aim to explore specifically the question of the political bias of the researcher and the use or potential instrumentalisation of research for activism. The participants will be encouraged to engage, propose approaches relevant to their disciplines, and test ideas in an open and less formal setting.

The events will engage with some poignant questions that we all encounter, regardless of the specificities of our topics and our political beliefs. When researching twentieth and twenty-first-century conflicts, are we governed by partisan and ideological convictions or by examining the phenomena of history and social life? Similarly, are the researcher’s political views as an academic independent from her or his personal real-world political opinions? Is it possible or desirable to aim for political impartiality or do academics have a moral responsibility to take sides and be an active participant in the democratic debate? In what ways does the identity of the researcher matter when studying conflict? How might one’s gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality or nationality map onto the methodological and structural research decisions? Which methodologies are the most adequate, and how do we practically make interdisciplinary work? Are all methodological decisions necessarily political choices as well? Are bibliographical choices indicative of an ideological stance?

Learning outcomes: Firstly, to learn about and discuss the research strategies employed by authors of selected texts, invited scholars and the other reading groups participants. Secondly, to reflect on one’s own positionality and to become equipped with concrete and up-to-date methodological competencies. Thirdly, to foster strong ties between researchers of different periods and geographical areas, while promoting fruitful dialogue between universities and disciplines.

Five sessions, approximately once a month, starting in March 2019 and finishing in June/July 2019. The first event has been announced and opened for registration here.