Minerva Research Initiative: Searching for the Truth or Denying the Iraqis the Rights to Know the Truth?

What has prompted me to write this paper is the continuing refusal of the U.S. to pay serious attention to Iraqi calls for the repatriation of the Iraqi records illegally seized by its military and intelligence agencies. Most recently, the Pentagon has issued an announcement, calling upon U.S. universities, research centers and scholars to submit […]

Possibilities for Partnerships?

Four years ago, Berkeley sociologist Michael Burawoy called for a “public sociology” that increased interaction between publics and sociologists.[1. Burawoy, Michael. 2005. “For Public Sociology.” American Sociological Review 70.1: 4-28.] The idea encountered both vigorous opposition[2. See François Nielsen. 2004. “The Vacant ‘We’: Remarks on Public Sociology.” Social Forces 84.4:1619-1628, and Mathieu Deflem. 2004-2006. Save Sociology.] and support from researchers eager for activist roles. […]

Should the social sciences contribute to the art of war in the era of securitization? Or to the crafting of peace?

This paper suggests that one should pause and think before rushing to accept research programs devised by the military, especially in a period of acute strategic crisis. The dubious idea that could come to mind is: “it is always better than nothing, and after all we accept private funds that are oriented by profit-seeking, and […]

‘Operations other than War’: The Politics of Academic Scholarship in the 21st Century

Among the many serious concerns raised by the Minerva project is the autonomy and impartiality of the academic domain — and the conditions that variously promote or threaten to undermine that autonomy.[1. I would like to thank Chris Krupa for his remarks on an earlier draft of this paper.] In general terms, it is tempting to […]

The Forgotten History of Knowledge and Power in British Iraq, or Why Minerva’s Owl Cannot Fly

In its lofty attempt to restore wisdom to war, Project Minerva promises to harness the formidable intellectual powers of the American university to the anti-intellectual gambits of the “war on terror.” Darkness has fallen, and the initiative heralds the proverbial flight of Minerva’s owl; the DoD has finally confessed it is out of its depth […]


If it were merely about creating links between universities and the military that might compromise academic freedom, the Minerva Initiative would be of no particular interest. For there exists a long history of such interactions, whose heroic moments belong to the Cold War and include the establishment of funding bodies for studying languages, cultures and […]

Pentagon Priorities and the Minerva Program

The Defense Department’s Minerva program stirs many interesting debates, and among them should be what the program says about the government’s assessment of security threats to the United States. It is not a satisfying picture. Of the five major program interests articulated by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the program guidelines, three of them […]