From Aleksandr:

WAR and peace!

That's right, war and peace. (Not the book by Tolstoy, which is actually called "War and the World", but that's a different story ...)

This is a very interdisciplinary topic. Here's just some ideas I brainstormed sitting at my desk:

Political Science: What causes wars? How do wars end? Why do wars occur? What causes peace? Study Blaney, Waltz, and others. Look at realism, constructivism, liberalism, institutionalism...

History: Major wars. How do civilizations deal with wars? How have wars affect politics? economics? literature? art? theatre?

Psychology: What goes on in the mind of a leader about to start a war? Look at Hitler, Stalin, Napoleon, Cyrus the Great, Alexander the Great, Peter the not-so-Great, Wilhelm, George W Bush, etc....

Math/Economics: Game theoretic approaches to the causes, course, and termination of war. Dynamic games of incomplete information. Probabilistic approaches to how states and leaders deal with incomplete information. Modeling states as rational, utility maximizing actors. Epistemological problems of such modeling.

Religion/Philosophy/Theology: How do religions/philosophies/theologians deal with war? Looking at just war theory and Augustine of Hippo, Christian Empire and Justinian the Philosopher, Russia and the "Moscow -- Third Rome" doctrine, the "Manifest Destiny", Militant Islam and Jihad, doctrinal pacifism ... Is war "ethical"? Can killing ever be justified?

Literature: How does war affect literature? How does literature affect war? Potential works to consider span from Thucydides to Tolstoy to Albert Camus' The Plague and beyond... [Perhaps we can do a comparative study of the effects of war on literature from two different sides of one conflict. For instance, Israeli and Palestinian literature/poetry. Both are centered around the same dates/location - both speak of events in terms of post/pre-1947, etc - but because of the history of the conflict, writers from either side must present their narratives in terms of disjointed space (lack of homeland) or disjointed history (continuous persecution). Similarities exist as well - how war has become such a continuous state that it's no longer represented as 'war', but rather, as 'the situation.' - Yi]

Art/Theatre/Cinema: Look at these fields as critiques of policies and/or as propaganda tools or ways to get support for war [Lots of good films incorporating war across cultures: 11.09.01, Battle of Algiers, Joint Security Area (S. Korea), Bashu (Iran), Silent Waters (India/Pakistan) - serve as critiques of policies, but also as narratives of the effects of war on people/societies. Perhaps by examining different war films, we can discuss some universal themes in war narratives? - Yi]

Science/Engineering: How have the ways of waging war evolved? Look at nuclear weapons, chemical and biological weapons, missile defence (or lack thereof)... Can society kill itself with these new weapons? How can society prevent this from happening? Is some scientific research too dangerous and should it be limited? [We can also look at the historical importance of science in various wars - WWII and the atomic bomb definitely comes to mind. Scientific inventions, the scientists involved (and how they decide what causes to advance) - all have had crucial, but often understated, roles in the outcomes of wars. - Yi]

Environment/Humanitarian issues: The effects of war on ecosystems and human societies. Look at depleted uranium weapons, land mines, environmental warfare, and more... We can include a service component where we raise funds to adopt a minefield or something like that.

This topic spans all disciplines and at the same time is not too broad for a symposium. I give it two thumbs up.

[Yay! I'm super excited about this topic! I think it's very relevant to many fields, as Aleksandr has mapped out. Another field: Health/Medicine - The epidemiology of disease during war is very interesting! Returning/invading armies carry disease across lands, introducing diseases to various populations. Also, disease introduced to invading/defending armies have often influenced the outcomes of wars. 1741, the Austrian army surrendered Prague to the French army because 30,000 soldiers died of typhus and the Austrians could not defend the city. Conquestadors, smallpox, measles, and the Incas and Aztecs/ the plague and the Napoleonic campaigns/ US forces, malaria, and the Vietnam War... - Yi]

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Talk:WAR and Peace From Students Very good idea Aleksandr!

I like this topic, is is VERY interdisciplinary. For example, many advances in medicine have come about during wartime. There is a great Article in Scientific American regarding data that Florence Nightingale collected during the Crimean War regarding how the health of patients was affected by cleanliness and good air circulation. This was a time when "modern" medical science thought that the answer to everything was bleeding the patient with a blade that had not been cleaned (much less sterilized) between the patients. Just one example -there are many, many more.


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War and Peace and Public Health In recognition of Veteran's Day (today as I write this), I wanted to add to this discussion a bit I heard on the radio the other evening.

World War I was the first large-scale draft that the U.S. enacted. I guess previous wars relied on individual states to muster up troops (military historians out there can correct me if I'm wrong). Anyway, what they found was that an incredible number of men were physically unfit for service!

In the Carolinas, something like 50% of men called up for the draft were unfit for duty. By World War II draft time, with the draft revealing the appallingly poor health of a significant percent of the population, the University of North Carolina began a public health program and opened a hospital. I don't have all the facts here, but this is the gist.


I didn't know that about the US in WWI, but there are some fascinating things written about the same issue for WWI in England, about how the malnutrition of the industrial British working class meant that many of them were not physically fit for combat. The public history and war story that is usually told about the United States in World War I is about veneral disease and the way that Progressives were able to impose their ideas about the regulation of sex in the name of protecting the doughboy from disease-carrying prostitutes. -jacob

I think that an addition of a section on "remembering war" would be fruitful too. This topic is very interdisciplinary, thus doable, and I really like the ideas that have been offered so far. My suggestion is reminiscent of the "remembering the end of the world" section of last year's symposium, only slightly different. I would be interested in examining how war is remembered in different cultures, especially across the "winner" and "loser" divide. I'm thinking specifically of revisionist histories, alternative terminologies, and recent disagreements over the process of remembering--and more specifically, teaching about-- war. (possible examples include friction between Japan and China over Japan's portrayal of its actions during the Sino-Japanese war in its history textbooks, as well as the entente cordiale between England and France. ~~Claire

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As a history major/health policy certificate Dukie, I think this topic is fantastic, and it definitely has my vote! Yet coming from a non-Uni scope -- I think this is a great topic that could potentially engage the attention of other Duke students and faculty. The themes of war and peace have always been relevant, but they are even more pressing today, especially as we look at the role the U.S. plays in world affairs. As creators of the symposium, I think it's important to ask who is our audience - or who do we want to be our audience? How can we present the ideas we want to present while ensuring we have the community interest we desire in order to stimulate thinking and conversation, as are some of the main purposes of the symposium. Consequently, I think WAR and Peace has many avenues to explore that are easily understandable and already of great interest to much of the Duke community. I look forward to seeing you all in the spring! (I'm still studying abroad in Madrid, Spain!) - Brittany

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This is my first choice, and agree with Brittany that it will draw the interest of the non-uni duke community because of its current events relevance, and the recent history of activism at duke. I would love to work on a presentation about "soft" war and the US in the 20th century, i.e. the cold war, economic agression, cultural imperialism, etc. and discuss the meanings of "war." (im not sure this is the right place for voting, but i couldnt figure out any other spot, so 1st choice here) -emily ladue, ugrad 06, literature