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Conference Discusses Changes in Soldiers' Experiences

By Galila M. Gray, Contributing Writer

A two-day interdisciplinary conference that examined the changing experiences of soldiers in modern society was hosted by the Humanities Center last weekend.

Titled “Soldiering: The Afterlife of a Modern Experience,” the event was intended to “examine the gradual disintegration of the Soldier-Subject in the postwar period and the ‘afterlife’ forms of modern soldiering,” according to the conference website.

Topics included the role of new military technology, the formation of postwar national identities, and the distinction between soldiers, civilians, and the state, and featured speakers from a variety of Harvard humanities departments, as well as from universities across the country.

Oded Na’aman, a graduate student and one of the conference organizers, said he was excited about the interdisciplinary nature of the event.

“People are working in different disciplines, but they have the same kind of concerns,” he said.

Conference attendee Winston A. Gee ’13 agreed, citing the panel on the representation of soldiers in poetry and literature as an example of an interesting and unique perspective on the topic.

The conference also featured a screening of the film “Human Terrain: War Becomes Academic,” followed by a discussion with the film’s director, James Der Derian of Brown University.

“The movie was made about the interaction between the army and academia, and we thought that it could attract people who were more interested in the political, rather than the academic, aspect of the conference,” Na’aman said.

The event was one of the Humanities Center’s annual graduate student conferences, the topic of which ws selected through an application process.

This year, the accepted proposal was submitted by Na’aman and fellow graduate students Tal Arbel, Melissa Lo, and Sabrina A. Peric.

Gee, who heard about the conference from his Social Studies tutorial leader Arbel, said he enjoyed the discourse about the increasing technological aspect of soldiering.

“The conference meshes very well with my interest in social theory and also gives a more comprehensive look at what it’s like to be a soldier,” Gee said.

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