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Visualising War and Peace

Author: The University of St Andrews

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How do war stories work? And what do they do to us? Join University of St Andrews historians Alice König and Nicolas Wiater as they explore how war and peace get presented in art, text, film and music. With the help of expert guests, they unpick conflict stories from all sorts of different periods and places. And they ask how the tales we tell and the pictures we paint of peace and war influence us as individuals and shape the societies we live in.
56 Episodes
This episode kicks off a new series of podcasts exploring how we visualise forced displacement, one of the many legacies of war. Alice interviews artist Diana Forster about her new art installation, 'Somewhere to Stay', which narrates the story of her mother's forced migration from Poland to Scotland during WWII. Fellow guest Josef Butler (a PhD student at King's College, London) draws on his research into the Polish exile community in Britain from 1940-1971 to provide important context for Diana's family story. Together, they help us to reflect on the power of artistic and historical narratives of forced migration to deepen understanding of contemporary experiences of displacement and to disarm the toxicity of current political debates around the so-called 'refugee crisis'. During the episode, Diana discusses her mother's experience of being deported from her home in eastern Poland (now Ukraine) to a labour camp in Soviet Russia in 1940, and of her arduous journey from there to Uzbekistan, Iran, Tanzania and (eventually) Britain, where her family finally settled. She also talks us through the artwork she has created to help us visualise that journey: in particular, ten laser-cut aluminium panels which depict the different forms of shelter which her mother found herself living in, from wood barracks in the Siberian gulag to army tents, stables, mud rondavels and Nissen huts. As she explains, her art has been inspired the old Polish paper-cutting craft of wycinanki, which allows her to create works that cast shadows, evoking the long shadow of war. Her new art installation, 'Somewhere to Stay', was co-commissioned by the Visualising War and Peace project and the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund, and is on display at Kirkcaldy Galleries (4th Feb-14th May 2023) and St Andrews' Wardlaw Museum (25th May-30th November). Josef helps us understand Diana's family story in the context of a wide range of Polish displacements triggered by World War II. He underlines the diversity of journeys taken by Polish refugees from east and west, and helps us picture the scale of these population movements, which traversed many different countries across multiple continents. He reflects particularly on the role played by British (former) colonies not only in providing temporary accommodation and resources to Polish refugees but also in shaping their ideas of Britain and British identity. This leads to some fascinating discussion of identity-formation amongst Polish communities in exile. Josef warns against 'flattening' narratives that homogenise Polish identity and experience, and talks us through the various ways in which Polish refugees were encouraged to integrate with the local population - while sometimes being barred from doing so. He sets this historic forced migration against the backdrop of wider post-war rebuilding and mass migrations (including Windrush), and reflects on the political labelling (both then and now) of some migrants as 'good' or 'worthy' and others as not. We reflect on the power of Polish exile history (and migration history more generally) to help us visualise the choices, agency and contributions of refugees in positive ways.  You can find out more about Diana's artwork and Polish exile history by visiting our ‘Visualising Forced Migration’ website. As we explain there, we want the story of this historic forced migration, from 80 years ago, to help us generate more compassionate conversation about how we grasp and represent the different forms of rupture, journeying and home-making which forced migrants have to deal with on a daily basis, all around the world. Our theme music was composed by Jonathan Young.  The show was mixed by Zofia Guertin.  
In this episode, student Harris Siderfin (a member of the Visualising Peace project) explores the role that youth-focused storytelling can play in reducing conflict and promoting the building blocks of a peaceful society. His guest is Rob Burnet, founder and CEO of Shujaaz Inc, a  multimedia youth platform based in Kenya that aims to help improve the lives and livelihoods of young people across East Africa. Among other activities, Shujaaz Inc distributes a free monthly comic, produces radio programmes, creates TV shows, and runs social media accounts based on the popular characters featured in its comics - using Sheng, a contemporary slang favoured by many young people in Kenya. The stories they tell across different media revolve around a 19-year old radio DJ and influencer, living on the outskirts of Nairobi. The DJ uses his media platform to bring young people together to talk about their experiences, the changes they want to make and the barriers that are standing in their way, spotlighting the stories of young ‘shujaaz’ ('heroes') who are creating change in their lives. Addressing issues such as gender inequality, reproductive health, local government, human rights, fake news, and political violence, Shujaaz reaches over 9.1 million 15–24-year-olds across East Africa, connecting them with information, skills, and resources they need to take charge of their lives. The Television Academy has recognised the company twice, awarding two Emmys, one in 2012 and another in 2014. How does Shujaaz relate to peace-building? As Rob and Harris discuss, storytelling can lead to behaviour-change. The characters created by Shujaaz speak directly to young people, sharing alternative ways of thinking, opening up new possibilities, building shared identities, and challenging and shifting social norms. Research has shown that young people who engage with Shujaaz are more likely than their peers to use contraception, thanks to the role models they encounter via these media; that they translate the financial wisdom which Shujaaz characters share into tangible improvements in their own lives; and that they are better informed about the strategies used by gangs and terrorist groups such as Al-Shabaab to recruit vulnerable young people to their cause - among many other benefits. These attitude and behaviour changes are fundamental in building a more secure, peaceful future for individuals and communities. 'Peace education aspires to enable students to become responsible citizens... who can deconstruct the foundations of violence and take action to advance the prospects of peace.' (Swiss Peace, 2021).  This is exactly what Shujaaz does, in teaching young people to develop positive mindsets, support themselves, and embrace peaceful ideals.  We hope you enjoy listening to Rob and Harris discuss Shujaaz's approach to storytelling as a powerful example of peace education. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. And for more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews' Visualising War website.Music composed by Jonathan YoungSound mixing by Zofia Guertin
Peace and Conflict in Space

Peace and Conflict in Space


In this week’s episode, two students from our Visualising Peace project - Harris Siderfin and Otilia Meden - talk to experts on space security. Dr Adam Bower is a Senior Lecturer in the School of International Relations and Co-director of the Centre for Global Law and Governance. His research examines the intersection of international politics and law, and particularly the development, implementation, and transformation of international norms regulating the use of armed violence. He is currently undertaking a long-term research project that assesses the development of new international governance mechanisms to regulate military space operations. Dr Bower is a Fellow of the Outer Space Institute, a global network of transdisciplinary space experts, and in that capacity is involved in a number of OSI research and advocacy efforts relating to outer space security.Wg Cdr Sas Duffin joined the RAF in 2005, and began working in the Space and Battlespace Management Force in Jul 2018, developing strategy and training for Space Operations.  She became a Qualified Space Instructor (QSI) in Feb 2020 before heading to Defence Academy Shrivenham where she obtained an MA in Defence Studies, writing a thesis on the ‘Language and Narrative of Space: Why Words Matter’. Joining UK Space Command in Jul 21 as the Senior Space Liaison Officer, she has developed a network of Space Liaison Officers (SpLOs) across Defence to aid in the awareness and integration of space in wider military planning and operations.Sqn Ldr Stu Agnew is a Scottish-qualified solicitor serving in the Royal Air Force Legal Services. Following qualification as a solicitor in 2014, he moved to specialise in corporate and commercial law before joining the Royal Air Force in January 2016. He was selected to be the first Legal Adviser within UK Space Command following its establishment on 1 April 2021. In this role, he provides legal advice on all of the Command's outputs. His remit includes advising on the development of doctrine and wider Defence outputs centred on space. Sponsored by the Royal Air Force, he obtained a Masters' degree in International Aviation Law & Regulation from Staffordshire University in 2020. His dissertation focused on the boundary between airspace and outer space under international law, or more accurately the absence of one.In the episode, Harris, Otilia and their guests discuss why and how security in outer space is important for people living on earth. They reflect on the development and implementation of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, and the spirit of international collaboration that underpins it. They also look at increasing activity in space by private corporations as well as nation-states, at the increasing militarisation of space, at the potential for growing conflict in space, and at the consequences of that for ordinary lives. Among other questions, they ask:Who are the primary state and non-state actors in outer space today? What dangers does conflict in space present and why should we, as individuals, care? How does peace in space help maintain peace on earth? And how can peace in space be promoted, improved and maintained?How can we best visualise peace in space when outer space itself is so difficult to conceptualise? We hope you enjoy the episode. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews' Visualising War website.Music composed by Jonathan YoungSound mixing by Zofia Guertin
This episode continues our mini-series looking at how children are socialised into recurring habits of visualising war and peace. Alice interviews Prof. J. Marshall Beier, who is Undergraduate Chair in the Department of Political Science at McMaster University. In the course of a distinguished career, Marshall's research has focused particularly on how children and childhood get conceived in political contexts, and what impact that can have on their political involvement as well as on their lives more broadly. In the course of this research, Marshall has published extensively on the militarisation of childhood and well as child and youth rights and youth political participation. Notable publications include edited volumes such as The Militarisation of Childhood: Thinking beyond the Global South (2011), Discovering Childhood in International Relations (2020), and – with Jana Tabak – Childhoods in Peace and Conflict (2021). We begin the podcast by looking at how children are militarised in many different ways - from their recruitment as child soldiers, to more 'benign' forms of cadet training, to messaging in society about the pervasiveness of threats (leading to an understanding that citizens need protection via the military), to the ways in which leisure spaces such as museums, airshows and online gaming can promote the 'cult of the hero' and inculcate wider military values, such as resilience, courage, or the idea that certain wars are 'good' while others are 'bad'. Marshall draws attention to 'militarism's ambient cacophony' - by which he means that the promotion of different kinds of military activity is all around us - and to the fact that as children grow up, they are exposed to many different kinds of pedagogies (formal and informal) which both normalise and naturalise war. This indirect 'enlistment' is vital to governments who, in time, may ask the adults that children become to sanction military spending and military deployments. Marshall also discusses the concept of 'childhood' itself, and differences between 'the imagined child' and children as political agents, subjects, knowledge-bearers and knowledge-producers.  We examine typical representations of children affected by conflict, and the ways in which images of their victimhood and vulnerability are often leveraged as 'a technology of governance' - in other words, used by politicians and others to shape wider attitudes and policy. Marshall underlines how flexible a category 'child' can be, however, and how governments and militaries can 'evacuate' certain age groups from this category when they see them as a threat, deeming them e.g. 'military-age males'.  He notes that states and militaries sometimes also ask children to 'do the work of adults': for instance by conducting surveillance, or being resilient when they lose a parent to conflict. And he draws on his work with the McMaster Youth and Children University to discuss how we might take a more rights-based approach to engaging with children around war and peace, empowering them to contribute to debate and discussion, rather than side-lining or even exploiting them.We hope you enjoy the episode. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews' Visualising War website. Music composed by Jonathan YoungSound mixing by Zofia Guertin
In this podcast Alice interviews Dr Helen Berents, a senior research fellow in the School of Justice at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. Helen’s research focuses on the involvement of children and young people in international conflict and peace-building processes, and she advocates strongly for wider recognition of their contributions and capacities in navigating violence and building peace. Her book Young People and Everyday Peace explores the presence and influence of youth voices in everyday efforts to respond to ongoing violence and insecurity in a small community in Soacha, Colombia. She has also looked at adult representations of children and young people in contexts of crisis and conflict, comparing them with the stories that young people tell themselves when given the chance. Helen is currently working on a project funded by the Australian Research Council on Youth Leadership and the Future of Peace and Security, exploring the role of youth-led advocacy and engagement in building more inclusive, durable forms of peace in different parts of the world. One aim is to improve the ways in which young people are supported and empowered in conflict-affected contexts; another is to develop new recommendations for the involvement of young people in peace and security policies in future.In the podcast Helen discusses widespread assumptions about children and childhood, which condition us to view them as victims in need of protection rather than as experts or agents in peace-building contexts. As Helen explains, it is important to be mindful of their potential vulnerabilities; but this can be compatible with recognising their lived experiences of conflict as valuable forms of expertise. We discuss the places where children are typically thought to 'belong' in times of war and peace, the images of child victims of conflict that often go viral, and the long-running marginalisation of their voices. But we also consider the work that young people have been doing in many different parts of the world to make their voices heard, and the impact of the UN's Youth, Peace and Security agenda. Along the way, Helen talks about the differences between 'liberal', top-down peace and grassroots, 'everyday' peace. Citing Veena Das and Christine Sylvester among others, Helen explains why we cannot simply study war and peace 'from the high places' (i.e. solely from the perspective of governments or abstract ideals) and why we need a 'descent into the ordinary' to excavate multiple lived experiences of violence and peace-building rooted in the everyday. Above all, Helen invites practitioners and policy-makers to consider what changes adults need to implement to make more space for children in different peace-building contexts, including recalibrating what 'expertise' looks like and ceding power to young people. We hope you enjoy the episode! You can find out more about Helen's work here. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. Please visit the University of St Andrews Visualising War website for more information about our project. Music composed by Jonathan YoungSound mixing by Zofia Guertin
Alice's guest on this podcast is Dr Olga Boichak, a Ukrainian-born sociologist who works as a lecturer in Digital Cultures at the University of Sydney. Editor of the Digital War Journal, Olga’s particular research interest is the war-media nexus. She has spent years studying participatory warfare in Ukraine, looking at how civilians have used mobile media and open-source intelligence to engage remotely in military conflict; and also at how digital media have been facilitating grassroots activism, from local military crowd-funding to the development of transnational humanitarian aid networks. Her research helps us understand the symbiotic relationship between digital and real-world activities: not just how war and digital media shape each other, but how digitally-driven volunteer movements that emerge in wartime can have longer-term effects on civil society development and broader institutional change. In the podcast, Olga discusses the 'reflexive control' that Russia has long tried to exert over Ukraine since its independence in 1991. She then reflects on the long history of 'productive resistance' that ordinary Ukrainians have engaged in, which over the years has helped to forge a stronger sense of collective identity and shared civic values. She discusses the many forms of civic participation in military activity that have evolved since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, and this gets us talking about blurred boundaries between war and peace, about people's proximity to and distance from conflict, and about the ethical dilemmas surrounding involvement and non-involvement. Along the way, we discuss the role that digital media have played in the conflict in Ukraine. Olga analyses Russia's use of social media from 2014 onwards, in particular their efforts to convince the wider world that people in Donbas have long had strong separatist leanings. She  explains how social media activists in Mariupol helped to disrupt that message back in 2014, which is perhaps why Russia has been so determined to conquer Mariupol in 2022.  We also talk about the ways in which social media have facilitated a range of humanitarian responses to the war in Ukraine - and how social media have been shaping our understanding and perception of the conflict more broadly. In many ways, our twitter feeds are full of very conventional pictures of war (tanks, bombed out buildings, soldiers firing weapons), reinforcing long-established habits of visualising conflict. At the same time, more innovative  forms of data visualisation (such as stats on the length of time people are spending in bomb shelters each day) are helping us to grasp the 'slow violence' of conflict on civilian populations.  New trends in representation are emerging all the time, challenging the traditional metrics we have long used to assess the costs of war and offering us different conceptual frameworks for understanding what is going on. Olga has family in Ukraine, so we talked a little about what they have been going through. If you are moved by anything you hear, please consider donating to organisations such as the Ukraine Crisis Appeal and UNICEF's Ukraine appeal. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews Visualising War website. Music composed by Jonathan YoungSound mixing by Zofia Guertin
Please note: this episode was recorded before recent events in Ukraine. We stand in solidarity with everyone caught up in this terrible conflict, and our thoughts are particularly with its youngest victims. Children's voices on conflict matter more than ever at present. This episode is no. 50 in the series! Listeners might remember that our first guest on the podcast was Lady Lucy French, the founder of Never Such Innocence, an organisation which gives children and young people a voice on conflict. In this episode, Alice interviews three Never Such Innocence Ambassadors - Molly Meleady-Hanley, Jasleen Singh, and Vasko Stamboliev - to help kick-start a new Visualising War project looking at the forces that influence young people's habits of visualising both war and peace. In this new project we will be collaborating with a wide range of researchers in childhood studies, critical security studies, peace studies and futures thinking, to build an extensive network of academics and practitioners to ask some of the following questions:What kinds of war stories are children of different ages most regularly exposed to in different parts of the world (through films, gaming, school curricula, local folklore, graffiti, news reports, and so on)? What aspects of war dominate the narratives that children are exposed to? And what narratives about war’s aftermath, conflict transformation and peace-building tend to circulate in the media that children most frequently engage with?What do children and young people think about dominant modes of representing war and peace in different media? How do they describe the impact which different narratives of war and peace have had on them? And how differently might they represent or narrate war, conflict transformation and peace, if they were in charge of the storytelling themselves? Finally, what impact can children’s voices have on entrenched adult habits of visualising war and peace, both now and in the future?In the podcast, Molly, Jasleen and Vasko share their memories of the war stories they grew up with, and they reflect on how war and peace were taught in the different school systems (in Greece, Serbia, Australia, Ireland and England) which they were part of. We dive into the poems, speeches and artwork which they have authored themselves, to express their own views on conflicts past, present and future. We discuss what impact children's perspectives can have in helping all of us re-visualise conflict from many different angles. And they explain how empowering it has been to have their voices heard, thanks to Never Such Innocence. Their experiences underline the vital importance of involving children in conversations about war and peace, and we celebrate the amazing work done by Never Such Innocence in bringing young people from all around their world into dialogue with each other and in giving them opportunities to address world leaders in lots of different places, from Buckingham Palace to the Bundestag. We hope you enjoy the episode! You can read Molly and Jasleen's poems and see Vasko's artwork in this blog, and you can find out more about Never Such Innocence via their website. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews Visualising War website. Music composed by Jonathan YoungSound mixing by Zofia Guertin
In this week's episode, Alice interviews two well-known authors and policy advisers on Future warfare: Peter Warren Singer and August Cole. Peter is a Strategist at New America, Professor of Practice at Arizona State University and Principal at Useful Fiction LLC – a network of creators, thinkers and artists, who explore the potential of fiction and other media to forecast future trends. He has served as a consultant for the US Military, Intelligence Community, and FBI, and he sits on the US Military’s Transformation Advisory Group and NATO’s Innovation Advisory Board, among other roles. He is the author of a number of best-selling books, including Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry, Wired for War , Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know  and LikeWar, which explores how social media has changed war and politics, and war and politics has changed social media.August is also a Principal at Useful Fiction and an author who explores the future of conflict through “FICINT” [Fictional Intelligence] storytelling. His talks, short stories, and workshops have taken him from speaking at the Nobel Institute in Oslo to lecturing at West Point. August is a non-resident fellow at the Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Creativity at Marine Corps University and a non-resident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center on Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. From 2014-17 he directed the Council’s Art of Future Warfare Project, which explored creative works for insight into the future of conflict. August is a regular speaker to private sector, academic and US and allied government audiences. He also leads the Strategy team for the Warring With Machines AI ethics project at the Peace Research Institute of Oslo.  With Peter, August is the co-author of the best-seller Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War (2015) and Burn In: A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution (2020).In the podcast, we discuss traditional methods of visualising future warfare; what 'useful fiction' can contribute in this space; the use of history in future-focused storytelling; and the capacity of stories (one of the oldest tools in the world) to shine a spotlight on blindspots and to raise uncomfortable questions, while engaging a wide range of readers in important conversations about the future.  We dive into Ghost Fleet in particular, and also August's short story ANTFARM.We hope you enjoy the episode. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews Visualising War website. Music composed by Jonathan YoungSound mixing by Zofia Guertin
In this week's episode, Alice interviews Dr David LaRocca, a philosopher by training but also an author and expert on cinema. Among other publications, he has edited volumes on the Philosophy of Documentary Film and on the Philosophy of War Films. In his book Metacinema: the form and content of filmic reference and reflexivity he discusses the self-conscious representation of different kinds of violence and conflict in film; and his recent research has paid particular attention to the affective elements of war films, as well as wrestling with big questions like ‘what is a war film?’ and ‘what are war films for?’ In his introduction to The Philosophy of War Films, David wrote: ‘it is largely through the camera, both through its lens and by means of cinematic form, that what many of us know about war is known, especially what we know visually and sonically…’  In the podcast, we discuss how films mediate our understanding of many aspects of war, and the very complex relationship between narrative and reality. David discusses changing trends in the cinematic representation of war, particularly as they have been affected by advances in technology. We reflect on the economics of the film industry and its implications for diversity and homogeneity of representation, and we also talk about the ways in which specific, real-life conflicts have driven developments in cinema. David has fascinating things to say about why we watch war films, not just once but often, on repeat. He explains the concept of the 'humanistic sublime': the vicarious experience of extreme peril without real, bodily-danger. We talk about how 'narratively satisfying' stories of conflict often are, in contrast to some narratives of conflict resolution and peace-building. And we discuss the immersive, emotive qualities of (e.g.) slow cinema relative to high-speed processing of rapid changes of scene.  David also gets us thinking about differences between dystopian and utopian representations of war and peace on the big screen. Along the way, we touch on a huge variety of trends in cinema, from documentary to anime, superhero movies to parody. As David points out, many films show self-awareness of the ways in which they influence and rework others, canonising some iconic images of war but also inviting us to question habits of representation.    We hope you enjoy the episode. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews Visualising War website. Music composed by Jonathan YoungSound mixing by Zofia Guertin
This week’s podcast continues our mini-series on visualising war through gaming. Alice and Nicolas’s guest is Dr Katarina Birkedal, who holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of St Andrews; her thesis is entitled ‘Resistance, Reproduction, Attachment: Unsettling gender through cosplay.’ Until 2021, Katarina was postdoctoral Research fellow on the Visualising War project. Drawing on literature, theory, and methodology from diverse fields, from archaeology to film studies, her research explores the role of stories in politics, whether they be those told in popular culture, the history lessons taught in school, or the narrative of world order presented by theories. As the title of her thesis reveals, Katarina has a special interest in cosplay, which she also pursues actively herself. Cosplay, and what it can tell us about representations of war and violence, is, not surprisingly, one of the topics that we discuss with Katarina on the show. But that is not all. Among the topics we explore with her, are–      how (childhood) stories shape our memories of wars, even when those wars happened a long time before we were born–      how stories in various media and popular culture, including cosplay, reflect and influence ideas about conflict–      how active involvement in cultural practices such as cosplay is a chance to challenge dominating, often stereotypical narratives of conflict–      conflict and gender roles, in popular culture, cosplay and beyond–      the militarisation of popular culture in Norway and Britain–      cultures of memorialisation: what is remembered and how, and what isn’t, and why–      boundaries between stories and reality–      how representations of war and conflict in popular culture might shape our ideas of the future of warfareWe hope you enjoy the episode!   For a version of our podcast with close captions, please go to our YouTube channel. You can find out more about Dr Katarina Birkedal’s work on her website at the Centre for Arts and Politics at the University of St Andrews. Be sure also to check out Katarina’s blog posts on the Visualising War website.For more information about the Visualising War project, individuals and their projects, access to resources and more, please have a look on the University of St Andrews Visualising War website. Music composed by Jonathan Young Sound mixing by Zofia Guertin
In this episode, our postdoctoral research assistant Katarina Birkedal (2020-21) interviews Taliesin and Evitel, the couple behind the YouTube and Twitch channels of the same name. They offer commentary on the game World of Warcraft, as well as giving regular news updates on everything related to the game. Through a combination of humour and deep dive analyses, they enrich their viewers’ experience and understanding of the game, drawing on their backgrounds as an actor and an art historian to pick apart the references and narrative devices the game uses to tell its story.Taliesin and Evitel’s YouTube channel has 293 000 subscribers at the time of recording, and their Twitch channel has more than 83 000 followers. Their content has been viewed 69 million times. They have also hosted live events for Blizzard, the company behind World of Warcraft. More recently, they have expanded their content to include analyses of film and TV as well as commentary on the game Final Fantasy XIV.You can find them on their YouTube channels – Taliesin & Evitel, T&E Talks, and Taliesin & Evitel TV – on their  Twitch channel, on Twitter, and on their website.Please note that this episode was recorded before the state of California filed its lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for discrimination against female employees, including charges of sexual misconduct. For more information, please see Taliesin and Evitel's video on the topic: the episode, we discuss how war is visualised through immersive fantasy in the MMORGP World of Warcraft. We talk about how the game constructs agency and heroism in war, how allegiance and identity is used, how the aftereffects of war are depicted, and how redemption and reconciliation are presented.  Taliesin and Evitel reflect on how the game treats player choice and ethics in extreme situations, including the perpetration of what amounts to in-game war, and whether the game amounts to a commentary on the illusion of free will in warfare, or on how far a person is prepared to go on orders.We reflect on how the game-world reflects the real-world attitudes of its creators, from the narrative construction of the two main factions – the Alliance and the Horde – as ‘steadfast’ and ‘savage’ respectively, to the treatment of the peoples that constitute them. From this, we discuss how our own experiences inform our readings of the game as players, and whether it is possible for the opposite to occur.  The conversation dives into many fascinating aspects of how we visualise war, in the real world and the game world - and how games and reality inform each other.We hope you enjoy the episode! For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews Visualising War website.   Music composed by Jonathan Young Sound mixing by Zofia Guertin
In this week’s podcast, Alice and Nicolas talk with Dr Iain Donald. Iain is a Senior Lecturer in Game Production at Abertay University. His research explores commemoration and memorialization in videogames and interactive media as well as the intersection of games, digital media and history. Iain is also a skilled developer of video games. He has been involved in several award-winning Applied Games projects, and has written and presented on creating and developing games for digital health, education, cybersecurity and social change. Among other topics, we discuss–      the possibilities, limitations and challenges of representing war and battle in video games–      the significance of historical accuracy in video games based on real conflicts–      the complex interplay of technical, aesthetic, economic and historical interests in the creation of games–      the ethical aspects of video gaming and player immersion, especially with regard to the representation of violence and injury–      the risks, challenges and consequences of representing real-life wars, battles and conflicts in games –      the role and ethics of player agencyWe hope you enjoy the episode!   For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. You can find out more about Dr Iain Donald’s work on his website at Abertay University. For links to some of the games Iain mentions in the podcast, you can read this blog.For more information about the Visualising War project, individuals and their projects, access to resources and more, please have a look on the University of St Andrews Visualising War website. Music composed by Jonathan YoungSound mixing by Zofia Guertin
In this episode, Alice interviews Dr Roddy Brett, an expert on political violence and peacebuilding based at the University of Bristol. Roddy’s research looks at the causes and consequences of armed conflict, and how it shapes state institutions and societies more broadly. He also works on conflict resolution and transitional justice, and is the author/co-author of a number of books, including The Companion to Peace and Conflict Fieldwork, The Politics of Victimhood in Post-conflict Societies, and The Origins and Dynamics of Genocide: Political Violence in Guatemala.He has worked a lot in Latin America, and more recently he has been looking at armed conflict in Ukraine, Myanmar, Lebanon and Northern Ireland, examining the legacies of armed conflict and the strategies which individuals and groups use to coexist in the aftermath of mass violence. Roddy is not just an academic: he has also worked for the United Nations and various NGOs on conflict analysis and conflict transformation. In Guatemala, for example, he was part of the team that prepared the investigation and brought evidence against former de facto president General Rios Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity, which resulted in his conviction in 2013. In the podcast, we discuss the language and categories used to define different kinds of political violence, the hierarchies we construct between them, and what difference they make to how perpetrators, victims, international observers and legal processes visualise and respond to conflict. Roddy talks us through the long process of investigating and redefining the political violence that took place in Guatemala from 1975 onwards, which was described by government supporters as 'brave counter-insurgency' but ultimately defined as involving acts of genocide, perpetrated against the Mayan population by the state. He reflects on the ongoing dissonance between how different sectors of Guatemalan society visualise and narrate the past, with implications for their future: different habits of remembering and describing what happened are further polarising an already polarised community. This gets us talking about peace and reconciliation processes, with Roddy reflecting on some of the ground-breaking aspects of the 2014 Colombian peace process. Rather than simply involving military actors, this involved civil society and gave victims a seat at the negotiating table. Combatants on both sides heard from a 'universe of victims'. Roddy compares this participatory approach with more 'top-down' peace processes, and we discuss the 'local turn' in sustainable peacebuilding and the 'spaces for encounter' which can engage emotions, break down conflict identities, 'deconstruct' or 'rehumanise' the enemy', overcome mistrust, and help people on all sides envision a more peaceful future. Roddy underlines the blurred line between 'peace' and 'conflict', as we consider the barriers to sustainable peacebuilding. And he talks about a project he is involved in which uses film as a tool to help individuals and communities look critically at their habits of visualising war and peace.We hope you enjoy the episode. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews Visualising War website. Music composed by Jonathan YoungSound mixing by Zofia Guertin
In this episode Alice and Nicolas interview two University of St Andrews colleagues,  Prof. Anthony Lang Jr of the School of International Relations, and Dr Rory Cox, Senior Lecturer in the School of History. Tony’s research focuses on how politics, law and ethics intersect at the global level, with a particular emphasis on human rights, international obligations and the just war tradition. Rory’s research is centred on the ethics of war, the history of violence, and intellectual history, and he explores these topics with an impressively wide chronological range, including ancient Egyptian Just War doctrine, medieval military history, debates on the use of torture, and the history of terrorism. In the podcast we discuss the different ways in which communities and individuals have visualised and articulated the complex relationship between war and justice. Tony and Rory talk us through some of the ideas associated with jus ad bellum (justifications for going to war), jus in bello (laws of conduct during war) and jus post bellum (the responsibilities that states/combatants might have in the aftermath of conflict). Rory stresses how varied different strands of thought within the Just War Tradition have been, taking us back into its deep history and challenging the myth that it is a product of purely 'Western' thinking. Rather than approaching it as a 'doctrine' (i.e. a set of principles that can be applied in any situation), he encourages us to think of the Just War Tradition as posing a set of important moral and ethical questions, to which there are no clear-cut or universal answers. This gets us talking about storytelling - the narratives that individuals and states have told to 'justify' their involvement or behaviour in different conflicts. We discuss the visualisation involved in justifying means via ends, and Tony reflects on the relationship between justifications of war and the fairy tale tradition (invoking Tolkein's idea that all fairy tales are 'eucatastrophes': stories with happy endings which involve great peril along the way). Rory highlights the key role that language plays in colouring how 'just' or 'unjust' we think different conflicts are - and, indeed, how we conduct them. We consider the impact which Just War thinking (on the one hand) and the political justification of a conflict (on the other) can have on soldiers' sense of identity and behaviours. We also talk about the role played by law courts, the press, social media, the film industry and gaming in shaping public perceptions of jus ad bellum, jus in bello and jus post bellum - and how public consensus in turn shapes the stories that policy-makers tell and the decisions they take. As Tony and Rory stress, the Just War Tradition is deployed in culturally specific and highly subjective ways. It sometimes helps prevent conflict, or mitigates its impacts, or holds people to account afterwards; but it can also be manipulated by influential figures within a community to persuade others to visualise war (or 'resistance' or 'terrorism', or torture, or 'the enemy', or the prospect of peace) in particular, self-serving ways. We hope you enjoy the discussion. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews Visualising War website. Music composed by Jonathan YoungSound mixing by Zofia Guertin
In this week's episode, Alice interviews award-winning artist Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox. Kathryn started painting as a child, selling her first piece of art at just 14 years old, winning her first major art competition at 16, and holding her first exhibition at 17. She has since exhibited not just in her native Australia but in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, South Korea, Norway London and New York. Her art takes inspiration from nature and the cosmos, and in recent years she has focused particularly on the existential threats posed to us and our world by emerging technologies. This has led her to look at military technologies – something which she is exploring academically as well as artistically through a PhD. Kathryn uses the powerful analogue medium of painting to ask huge questions about new media, especially those that use the electromagnetic spectrum: a natural phenomenon which we can’t see with the naked eye but which many are using for commercial and/or coercive purposes. Fundamentally, her art is a powerful exercise in visualisation, inviting us to look deep into the past as well as the future, and to pay attention to phenomena that threaten our landscape and human existence. In particular, she focuses attention on the 'everywhere war': the increasing blurring of military and civilian technologies and activities, a development which challenges our long-established habits of visualising (and separating) 'war' and 'peace'.In the podcast, Kathryn describes her approach as 'imaginational metaveillance' - a term she has come up with to capture the critical, analytical observations that her art performs by taking us to places we can only go in our imaginations and getting us to look critically at things we cannot physically see. In her paintings, she invites us to fly, so that we can look down from above earth's atmosphere, seeing natural clouds but also online/digital 'clouds' that swirl everywhere, and the invisible grids that criss-cross earth and sky, measuring our every move and harvesting our data. Kathryn explains why she uses age-old symbols like the Tree of Life to help viewers connect with the whole span of human history as they visualise future threats and possibilities, both military and civilian - or a combination of the two. We discuss her artistic style, which draws readers in with lots of colour and beautiful aesthetics, and also the responses which viewers often have to her art: most are enthusiastic, until they look closely and grasp its worrying 'revelations' about the threats that lurk in our present and future. This gets us talking about the impact which Kathryn wants to have with her art. Among other places, Kathryn has exhibited her art at the Australian Defence College, and she has enjoyed the many reflective conversations it has opened up with lots of different visitors. She believes that the critical and imaginative visions of past, present and future which art can prompt us to engage with have much to contribute to policy-making and strategic thinking, and she describes her own work as a form of quiet activism, opening up dialogue and inviting people to engage with big questions.  We hope that our podcast conversation with Kathryn does exactly this for you! A blog with some of the images we discuss is available here, and listeners can find more examples and analysis of Kathryn's art on her blog. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. For more information, please visit the University of St Andrews Visualising War website. 
In this week's episode, Alice interviews three researchers - Teresa Ó Brádaigh Bean, Lydia Cole, and Azadeh Sobout - who are involved in the Art of Peace project based at the Universities of Manchester and Durham. Led by Oliver Richmond, Stephanie Kappler, and Birte Vogel, this project explores arts-based approaches to peace-making and the role that grassroots-led art projects can play in helping communities process and recover from conflict. On the podcast, we discussed the many different roles that different forms of artistic practice can play in post-conflict communities, from bringing people together and building bridges between past and present to rights-based activism and peaceful revolution.  Lydia, Azadeh and Teresa were all keen to stress that participatory arts programmes can help people 'build better futures', not just process past experiences. Along the way, we discussed the false binary between war and peace that often distorts and simplifies how we visualise both. We talked about the limitations of top-down, colonial-style peace-making initiatives, and the merits of grassroots peace-building from below and attention to micropolitics. We also looked at lots of different examples of 'artivism' - art that embodies and enables activism. Our conversation got us thinking about entrenched habits of visualising 'peace' and the role that different art forms can play in re-visualising both peace and conflict and in visualising new/different/better futures.Alongside her research, Teresa works for the charity In Place of War, which supports artists and cultural organisations in places of conflict all around the world. Her recent work has focused particularly on creative enterprise, community arts education and arts-based social movements in Colombia, and she is co-editor of a volume coming out soon called ‘The Art of Making Something from Nothing’, which looks at the social impact of arts projects across the Global South.Lydia is closely connected to the Conflict Textiles project which we talked about on the podcast last week, and she has curated a range of exhibitions in connection with this (called ‘Stitched Voices’ and ‘Threads, War and Conflict’), bringing feminist international relations theory and critical peace and conflict studies together. She is passionate about creative and participatory approaches to peace and conflict studies, and her work for the Art of Peace project has focused particularly on grassroots arts projects in Bosnia and HerzegovinaAzadeh has been leading a research project on the intersection of arts and peace-building in Lebanon, focused particularly on refugee communities from Syria and internally displaced people from within Lebanon itself. She has a particular interest in post-war geographies and narratives of displacement; in how different affected communities present their histories and identities through different artistic media; and how different forms of art can create avenues for peace activism, by helping people work through the complexities of solidarity, responsibility and ethics.  We hope you enjoy the episode. You can find out more about the Art of Peace project on their website, and more information about In Place of War is available here. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link.For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews Visualising War website. Music composed by Jonathan YoungSound mixing by Zofia Guertin
In this week's episode, Alice interviews Roberta Bacic, a Chilean collector, curator and Human Rights advocate, about the ‘Conflict Textiles‘ collection which she oversees. In 2008, Roberta was involved as guest curator at an exhibition called ‘The Art of Survival’, hosted in Derry-Londonderry. The exhibition was focused on different women’s experiences of survival, and it was inspired in part by a Peruvian arpillera (a form of tapestry) which Roberta had brought to a meeting, to illustrate how women on both sides of the long-running conflict in Peru during the 1980s and 1990s represented their experiences and used the stories they had sewn as testimony at the subsequent Truth and Reconciliation Commission. From there, the idea of curating a physical and digital collection of Conflict Textiles grew – and today the collection (based at Ulster University) comprises arpilleras, quilts and wall hangings from many different parts of the world, including Chile, Northern Ireland, Croatia, Colombia, Germany, India, Zimbabwe and Syria. These works of art not only depict conflict and its consequences. In many cases, they embody the resilience of the people who created them, and they can be read as acts of resistance too: fabric forms of storytelling that advocate for justice and promote alternatives to conflict. In the podcast we discuss the origins of the arpillera tradition in Chile during the 1970s and its gradual 'diaspora' around the world as a medium of communication and protest, despite a ban on exports once Pinochet's regime began to understand the power of these 'conflict textiles'. Roberta reflects on their tactile dimension: made up of scraps of ordinary household cloth, they connect viewers to their makers and the stories they want tell in very tangible ways. Made mostly by women, they use domestic materials and techniques to make private griefs public and to amplify marginalised voices. Whether they are documenting events as they unfold or looking back on past conflicts, they play an important role in bearing witness to atrocities and in empowering victims to demand justice, both individually and collectively. Many of the Conflict Textiles we discuss either represent groups of women coming together to demonstrate against violence or are themselves the products of collaborative work. We discuss their often beautiful, seemingly cheerful aesthetics, and the ways in which they subvert visual storytelling trends to communicate the loss and suffering inflicted by conflict. They often combine storytelling with symbolism, and that gets us talking about the 'language of textiles' which transcends borders and continues to resonate across time. Among the pieces we look at are an arpillera made in 2021 by a Syrian refugee, a quilt made by WAVE trauma centre participants in Northern Ireland in 2013, and a textile stitched by an ex-combatant in Colombia who wants to 'unstitch' the idea that he is a monster and not human. These Conflict Textiles have much to teach us not just about habits and techniques of visualising war and its aftermath but also about what the process of visualisation and re-visualisation can achieve.We hope you enjoy the episode. A blog with some of the images we discuss is available here, and listeners can find many more images on the Conflict Textiles website. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews Visualising War website. Music composed by Jonathan YoungSound mixing by Zofia Guertin
In this week's episode, Alice interviews award-winning artist George Butler. George's art covers a huge range of topics, but he specialises in current affairs and his visual reportage from conflict zones like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria has won plaudits from the likes of Jeremy Bowen and Michael Morpurgo. George's work often takes him to places which other people are trying to leave. In August 2012, for example, he walked from Turkey across the border into Syria where, as a guest of the Free Syrian Army, he set about drawing the impacts of the civil war on people and towns. Over the last decade he has been to refugee camps in Bekaa Valley (Lebanon), oil fields in Azerbaijan, to Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Mosul, and to Gaza with Oxfam, among many other places. His drawings have been published by the Times, the New York Times, the Guardian, BBC, CNN, Der Speigel, and a host of other media outlets; and they have also been exhibited at the Imperial War Museum North and the V&A museum, among other places. George has also recently published a book, Drawn Across Borders: True Stories of Migration, which tackles one of the many ripple effects of conflict and shines a spotlight on some of the humans behind the headlines.In the podcast, we talk about drawing as a dynamic process: one in which the artist invests time, and during which the people being drawn might come and go, shift position or mood, fade into the background or come into focus. George’s drawings capture the rhythm of a place over several hours, enabling him to convey a context and set of experiences that are less easily observed through the fast shutter speed of a camera lens. Another aspect of drawing that George relishes is how approachable and unthreatening an artist often seems. While a cameraman’s equipment might act as a barrier, a simple pad and pencil often gets people coming closer to look and ask questions, sparking conversations. Drawing on location involves listening to many different people and the stories they want to share; and what George hears then finds its way into the drawings as they develop. George reflects on the combination of aesthetics and storytelling in his reportage. While he strives to make his art beautiful, he sees little point in an attractive image which is not telling an interesting story – one that uncovers less visible, ignored or forgotten aspects of a conflict. One thing that motivates his work is the desire to round out our habits of visualising contemporary wars. We discuss the push and pull of media organisations and NGOs, who sometimes want an artist to focus on particular aspects of a conflict, and also the challenges that artists and photographers often face in deciding what is appropriate to depict in any given context. George clearly sees his drawings as fulfilling a documentary role, setting down a record for the future; but he is also interested in myth-busting, especially around migration, and his book Drawn Across Borders has been described as ‘a work of art, compassion and activism.’We hope you enjoy the episode! A blog with some of the images we discuss is available here, and more  images are available on George’s website. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link.  For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews Visualising War website. Music composed by Jonathan YoungSound mixing by Zofia Guertin
The Visualising War podcast recently interviewed award-winning photographer Peter van Agtmael. Over a career spanning 20 years, Peter has focused on representing different manifestations of the US at war. His first book, ‘Disco Night Sept. 11’, brought together images of the USA at war in the post-9/11 era, from 2006-2013. His second, ‘Buzzing at the Sill’, focused on the US in the shadow of recent wars; it does not capture images of armed conflict, but examines aspects of American society that have been shaped by and helped to shape the wars that America has fought. His third book, ‘Sorry for the War’ explores the vast dissonance between how the United States has visualised itself at war and how people on the ground (soldiers and civilians) have experienced those wars, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Peter has won multiple prizes for these books, as well as being highly sought after by media organisations such as the New York Times and the New Yorker. For the last ten years he has also been capturing images of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.In the podcast, Peter talks about what motivated him to go to war as a photographer in the first place, and how his understanding of war and his approach to conflict photography have evolved over time. Aware that a single photograph can only capture one person’s perspective and a tiny slice of time, Peter underlines the importance of a multiplicity of images which together can build a sense of context, change over time and diversity of experience. He tries to document wars as holistically as possible, while still going deep and getting personal. He is particularly interested in unpicking the gap between our habits of imagining, viewing and understanding conflict and how it impacts people for real. There is a strong sense in his books that he is myth-busting, as he invites us to look critically at our own habits of seeing and really stretches our understanding of war’s dynamics, impacts and aftermath.  Among other things, Peter talks about the aesthetics of conflict photography, the authenticity and 'trustworthiness' of the images he tries to take, and his role as a narrator - both when taking individual photographs and when curating them into photographic collections and books. We discuss the opportunities that long-form books can offer compared with short-form articles, in documenting both multiplicity and complexity. And we consider what written text can add to images, in contextualising and sometimes even dispelling a mirage. Along the way we reflect on the vital role that photography and a reflective press can play in deconstructing misconceptions and idealisations of war that political rhetoric and other social pressures so often rely on. We hope you enjoy the episode! This blog captures some of the images that Peter talks about; and listeners can see more on Peter's website and instagram page. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews Visualising War website. Music composed by Jonathan YoungSound mixing by Zofia Guertin
In this episode, Alice interviews journalists Margaux Benn and Noorrahman Rahmani, about their experiences of war and peace reporting in Afghanistan. Noorrahman comes from Afghanistan, and he has spent much of the last fifteen years working for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), first as a linguistic, then as a press monitor, and more recently as the IWPR’s Country Director in Afghanistan, managing their extensive work programmes there. Margaux is a freelance journalist who has worked for Agence-France-Press, France 24, Le Figaro and the New York Times, among other media organisations. Her career has taken her to Sudan, Kenya, the Central African Republic and Cyprus – but for the past four years she has been living and working in Afghanistan. Together, they reflect on the complex relationship between conflict and journalism, and on the challenges that journalists have faced in Afghanistan, both before and after the Taliban retook control in August 2021. Noor discusses how the media scene in Afghanistan has changed over the past twenty years, with hundreds of radio stations and TV channels emerging, sponsored by a wide range of organisations. He also details some of the vital work that the IWPR has done in training local journalists (women and men) in developing professional networks across the country and in reaching parts of Afghanistan that foreign journalists often struggle to get to. He explains what a difference it can make to a local community to have their voices heard, drawing international attention or government aid to the region. As Noor points out, journalism has been difficult and dangerous for decades in Afghanistan, but all the more so now that the Taliban are back in power. Despite the challenges, Noor hopes that journalists on the ground will find new ways to engage with the Taliban, and he stresses the importance of peace reporting: that is, journalism that critically explores the drivers of conflict, that empowers local communities to make their voices heard, and that promotes conflict resolution between different groups. Margaux discusses her experiences as a foreign journalist in conflict zones, and compares it with that of local journalists who often run even greater risks while struggling to make ends meet. She reflects on the different biases that different sections of the international press can have when reporting on conflicts outside their region, reminding us that international news stories are often driven more by outside perceptions of history than by what is really happening on the ground. She also discusses the different impact which long-form articles, documentaries, radio and podcasts can have, in comparison with breaking news and short-form media, and this gets her talking about the power of different kinds of storytelling. Margaux underlines the importance of contextualising conflict, not just reporting on combat itself, and she gives us a flavour of how wide-ranging 'war reporting' can be in looking at many different causes and consequences of conflict. For her, it is vital that we visualise war through individual people's stories and experiences. Between them Noor and Margaux offer fascinating insights into the current state of media in Afghanistan and into war and peace reporting generally.We hope you enjoy the episode! For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews Visualising War website. Music composed by Jonathan YoungSound mixing by Zofia Guert
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