Symposium on the Psychology of War

Symposium on the Psychological Interpretation of War
January 15-17, 2004, New York City
Sponsored by the Library of Social Science

Anthony Giddens has observed that the failure of scholars to come to terms
with the meaning of violence and war constitutes â??one of the most
extraordinary blank spots in social theory in the twentieth century.â?? This is an
astonishing lacuna. War is a central institution in the history of civilization. World
War I and World War II were the defining events of the 20th century. Just when
it seemed that we were moving toward a globalized existence, we have been
thrown once again into a world dominated by ideologies of violence.

War has caused monumental devastation and suffering. Yet, despite its
awful consequences, the institution of warfare is taken for granted as a fact of
life. What is the nature of those desires and anxieties that fuel enthusiasm
for war, compelling us to embrace it in spite of the invariable misery it
creates and the disillusionment that follows in its wake?

The symposium will be both a workshop and a seminar, gathering scholars
and professionals from the fields of psychology, psychiatry, sociology,
anthropology, history, philosophy, literature, military studies and religious studies
to address the meaning and consequences of the human propensity to die and
kill in the name of political and religious ideologies.

The following questions will serve a springboard for analyzing violence,
war, genocide, terrorism, and hatred as socially organized phenomena:

(1) What psychological and cultural mechanisms underlie socially sanctioned,
collective forms of violence, transforming killing into a moral act?

(2) What is the relationship between violence and â??sacrifice?â?? Why are human
beings willing to die in the name of reified objects with which they

This symposium seeks presenters and others interested in participating in
an intensive dialogue about various types of violence, the similarities and
differences among them, and methodologies for analyzing them.

Possible topics for presentation include:

--Linguistic and metaphorical aspects of political speech that generate
--Psychoanalytic approaches to the dynamics of violence
--The role of â??basic trainingâ?? as preparation for sacrifice
--â??The enemyâ??
--Anthropological and cross-cultural studies of war
--Ideological and religious doctrines as the source of violence
--Similarities and differences between war, genocide and terrorism
--War and gender
--War, death and memorialization

To present, please provide the titles of your talk plus a 150 word
abstract of your presentation before November 15, 2003. Others wishing to attend
please provide a brief statement of about 150 words indicating why you wish to
participate and how you hope to contribute.

Please e-mail your proposals to <A HREF="mailto:libraryofsocialscience@xxxxxxxxxxxxx";>libraryofsocialscience@xxxxxxxxxxxxx</A> or send
by FAX to 413-832-8145.

For further information please contact the Symposium Director, Jay Bernstein,
Ph.D., at 718-393-1104

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