Between the 3rd and 5th of November Professor Vince Connelly and Dr Scott Tindal from the Future Reserves Research Programme attended the 2017 International Conference of the Inter-University seminar on Armed Forces and Society (IUS) to present their research.
The IUS conference on Armed Forces & Society deals with all aspects of military professionalism and relations between the military and wider society, from an interdisciplinary perspective. It is attended by military professionals, those well-established and respected in the field, as well as new scholars. The conference was held in Reston, Virginia – just 20 miles from Washington DC. This was the first time the conference was held outside of Chicago, and was done so to encourage attendance from those in the defence sector.
The conference feels intimate despite hosting around 150 delegates. The field remains relatively small and so many of the participants know each other well, yet were very welcoming and encouraging to those of us who were new to the field. I had some concerns that the conference, like the academic literature in military sociology, would be dominated by those from the USA, and USA-centric perspectives. Yet the IUS lived up to its international name by welcoming representatives from Canada, Europe, Israel, Asia, and beyond. A number of streams were dedicated to research examining security and defence challenges in specific global regions.
This year the conference placed particular attention on its founder, Morris Janowitz, in light of the republishing of his influential work ‘The professional soldier: a social and political portrait’. Originally published in 1960, this work has been republished in 2017. It remains one of the foundational works in the area of civil-military relations. There were two sessions in the conference dedicated to discussing Janowitz’s ideas and hypotheses which remain as relevant today as they were in the 1960s.
The keynote address was given by Professor Hans Joas of Humbolt University Berlin and University of Chicago, who delivered his lecture entitled “Post-national imperialism? A militarist tradition of thinking and its contemporary relevance”.
Significant focus in this conference was given to the issue of cyber security as the new frontier in defence and security. There was also significant attention on Reservists, a historically under-researched area in our field.
Our session was entitled ‘Reserve Forces in the 21st century – balancing work, family, and fighting effectiveness’. In it, I delivered a presentation on behalf of our team where I describe how the MoD and Reservists articulate the skills of the citizen-soldier – i.e. men and women who develop and utilise their skills in both civilian and military employment contexts. The talk was well received, and afterwards I was approached by two other delegates who wanted to ask me further questions about our work, future outputs, and tell me about their own experiences either personally or from their own research. I also met a number of other delegates whose work aligned with ours, and so it was a pleasure to talk with them and exchange contact details.
The conference was one of the best I have attended in terms of its warmth of hospitality as well as the scope and rigour of the research presented.
Dr Scott Tindal, The University of Edinburgh