“War the gentle way? Cultural knowledge and the social sciences at war”

Open to the Public
Nador u. 9, Faculty Tower
Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 11:30am
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Thursday, April 26, 2012 - 11:30am to 12:30pm

The Doctoral School of Political Science, Public Policy, and International Relations

cordially invites you to a public lecture of the

7th Annual Doctoral Conference



(University of Manchester)

“War the gentle way?  Cultural knowledge and the social sciences at war”


26 April, 2012 - Thursday




About the lecture

There has been a trend for some time to make Western war more acceptable to liberal sensibilities.  The attempt and supposed ability to keep non-combatants out of harm’s way as much as possible has played a significant role in this endeavour.  The West’s supreme capacity to blow up the right stuff with precision, that is without – or so the impression that was created – hurting ‘innocent civilians’ has played a significant role in the justification of war.  Yet the so-called ‘war on terror’ has undermined this imaginary.  Precision bombing has not only become problematic in the kinds of operations conducted but also has not led – and cannot lead - to any kind of meaningful victory in the ongoing conflicts; rather, if the West is to win, the people of Iraq and Afghanistan must be persuaded to put down arms and accept the new political order.  In this context an ability to understand the local population emerges as crucial to success and this means that militaries now see themselves as in need of expertise from the social sciences.  This paper examines the rise of the significance of cultural knowledge and its implications in the context of the US armed forces.


About the lecturer

Maja Zehfuss is Professor of International Politics at The University of Manchester.  She is the author of Constructivism and International Relations: The Politics of Reality (Cambridge University Press 2002) and Wounds of Memory: The Politics of War in Germany (Cambridge University Press 2007) and the co-editor, with Jenny Edkins, of Global Politics: A New Introduction (Routledge 2008), now moving towards its second edition.  Her current work examines how the problematic of ethics is produced, enacted and negotiated in war.

For more information on the Annual Doctoral Conference please go to the event’s website at