Friday, June 21, 2019

Multidisciplinary Military Meetup: ERGOMAS in Lisbon

Opening session of ERGOMAS 2019 with host Helena Carrieras

I learned of ERGOMAS--the European Research Group on Military and Society--from Irina Goldenberg, who has since become one of the co-directors of the Canadian Defence and Security Network.  ERGOMAS consists mostly of sociologists and anthropologists with some psychologists and political scientists and others as well. So, I was very much in a minority.  I went to this meeting for several reasons: to present my work to a different sort of audience, to see what ERGOMAS is all about, and, once the CDSN got funded, to connect the CDSN with Europe and to find willing podcast interview subjects.

What did I learn?
Book panel focusing on Chiara Ruffa
  1. Most folks have not done podcast interviews (and I am a rookie as an interview with only KCIS as some experience).  I interviewed five scholars: Norwegian, Italian (based in Sweden), South African,  Israeli, and, of course, Portuguese.  The topics varied quite widely from Special Operations Forces (the Norwegian is known as Dr. SOF, having embedded with her country's Marine Special Operations folks for 18 months) to the impact of military culture on how forces operate in places like Lebanon and Afghanistan, political transitions and the armed forces, integration of women into the armed forces, and more.  Each conversation was very interesting, and I could ask whatever questions I want, rather than only being able to ask one in a crowded panel room.  The interviewees were game and were supportive as I worked with the technology.
  2. I can mostly get what sociologists and anthropologists are doing.  At least the ones attending here used similar jargon and methods, although much more focus on ethnography and learning multiple languages.  Their idea of fieldwork is a bit more intense than mine.  There may have been more discussion of the military and the judiciary this week than I have heard in my career.  Very interesting stuff.  Of course, I got only a narrow slice as each period had competing panels from different working groups--I tended to go the civil-mil sessions, the public opinion and the military sessions, and warriors in peacekeeping.  I didn't go to panels on veterans or on police or recruitment and retention.  
  3. I did go to the book panels, which were mostly interesting. I am definitely going to buy Dr. SOF's book on Making Warriors and Kristen Harkness's book on ethnic politics and coups.
  4. I did not stick around for the dancing after the conference dinner--I did not have enough alcohol to go along with that.  
  5. Perhaps because it was a multidisciplinary crowd or perhaps everyone was interested in military stuff, no one wasted much time asking paper givers why their topic was interesting or relevant.  We all found the stuff being discussed to be instrinsically interested.
  6. The fun part of ERGOMAS is its leadership selection--whoever gets to be the next President gets to host the next meeting in two years.  So, the contest was between a French person and an Estonian.  The French person was not so certain where the conference would be if held in France, so the Estonian and Tartu won by a slim majority.  I would have been on France... but I guess  Europeans have had enough opportunities to go there.
  7.  ERGOMAS used to be restricted to Europeans and is still mostly, but it has South American, North American, and Asia-Pacific members.  
  8. ERGOMAS seems to have ties to both the North American-based Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society (its Canadian branch is a CDSN partner) and the International Sociology Association's Research Committed on Armed  Forces and Conflict Resolution.  Their next meeting is next July in South Africa, so I am now putting that on my schedule.  
I am hoping that ERGOMAS becomes a CDSN member.  We will certainly be highlighting ERGOMAS this summer and fall as we sprinkle in interviews we taped during the week in Lisbon.  Now I am off to Barcelona for a few days since my conference in Paris (EISS) starts next Thursday).

Oh, and, yeah, I love my job:

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