Visualising War in Different Disciplines: interdisciplinary interplay

17th-18th May, 2018: Swallowgate 11, School of Classics, Butts Wynd

The aim: to bring together researchers to discuss the study of war from different disciplinary perspectives. 

A follow-up to our conference on Interplay between Battle Narratives across Antiquity, this colloquium took our methodological discussions further by integrating them into a larger interdisciplinary framework and by exploring interplay between battle narratives from antiquity to the present day. Adopting an experimental format, researchers from different disciplines (including History, English, Art History, Classics, Music, Film Studies, Evolutionary Biology, Psychology and International Relations) ‘swapped’ and responded to a selection of battle narratives from each others’ fields. This opened up cross-disciplinary reflections on the study of this complex cultural phenomenon.

The aims of the colloquium were twofold: to share expertise on war studies between disciplines, and to discuss new methodologies and opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration. To achieve the former, we asked participants to pre-circulate some key materials from their respective fields (e.g. extracts from a Hellenistic battle inscription, a poem by Seamus Heaney, data on the kinds of genetic conflicts which determine aspects of military behaviour). By sharing material in this way, we aimed to familiarise ourselves with each other’s methodological approaches, as well as getting to know each other’s data/research worlds. One goal was to identify what is distinctive about ancient, pre-modern and modern representations of battle, and to debate and develop new approaches to the analysis of narrative interplay across time and space. A major focus of discussion was on how we might trace interactions between material from different periods, places and cultures. In particular, we asked some speakers to reflect on the influence of Classical representations of war on later battle narratives. A reflective plenary discussion looking specifically at methodologies for interdisciplinary collaboration concluded the first day of the colloquium. The ultimate aim was to identify a concrete set of avenues for the Visualising War project to explore as it extends its focus from antiquity to looking at interplay between battle narratives from antiquity to the present day. One outcome of this was the founding of the Visualising War Research Group.

The colloquium took place over two days, with the first day populated by academic speakers and respondents. Day 2 was organised by two PGRs (Tommaso Spinelli from Classics and Alberto Micheletti from Biology). Under the guidance of their respective supervisors (Andy Gardner from Biology and Alice König from Classics), they had already begun exploring a potential interdisciplinary collaboration revolving around the roles played by women in war, and the ways in which recent discoveries in Evolutionary Biology and Classical scholarship might usefully inform each other. They presented their joint findings as a key-note paper to open the second day of the colloquium. That was followed by three papers from PGRs working in different disciplines and contributions from two speakers with operational military experience, with a plenary discussion to end. As for Day 1, a major focus of discussion was the opportunities and challenges of interdisciplinary research.

For further details on both days, please see these outlines for 17th and 18th May.

This workshop was generously funded by the School of Classics at the University of St Andrews.