Marjan Centre for the Study of War and the Non-Human Sphere
War and conflict have traditionally been both conceived and studied as a uniquely human phenomenon, as humans are seen both as the main cause and victims of war.
One of the missing dimensions in the study of war, however, is the impact of war and conflict on the ‘non-human’ sphere, which covers ecosystems, fauna and flora, and natural resources as well as the atmosphere: how this arena is affected by war and conflict forms the core focus of The Marjan Centre along with the link between ecology and post-conflict rebuilding (please see ‘Ecological Development’ under Projects).
‘Eco-terrorism’, violent grass-roots protests against resource extraction, ‘rhino wars (please see ‘counter poaching’ under Projects), ‘water wars’ and the draining of Iraq’s marshes by Saddam Hussein are some examples of war and the non-human sphere. From this perspective war and conflict are also seen from a very different viewpoint, challenging the way we think about war and conflict.
The Marjan Centre’s focus on the relationship between war and the non-human sphere is unique having been formed in 2012 under the academic direction of Professor Michael Rainsborough, current Deputy Head of the Department of War Studies, combining leading-edge research (see Projects and Publications) with a committed ‘outreach’ policy supported by Major General (ret.) Peter Davies, CB, as Honorary Patron: the centre has launched an MA module, while the importance of field research in conflict zones is reflected by the Marjan-Marsh Awards and all the work of the centre underpinned by an active ‘blog’
Fundamentally, the overlap of war and conflict with the non human sphere addresses modern life and explores contemporary concerns. Some two decades ago Robert Kaplan in his seminal book The Coming Anarchy urged that ‘it is time to understand the environment for what it is: the national-security issue of the early twenty-first century’. Kaplan mentioned the political and strategic impact of surging populations, spreading disease, deforestation and soil erosion, water depletion, air pollution, and rising sea levels in critical, overcrowded regions like the Nile Delta and Bangladesh.
To Kaplan’s list we can add the impact of climate-change, the political matrix of the illegal wildlife trade, the socio-political identity of ‘eco-terrorism’, and the effect of war on ecology, as well as an examination of what a ‘green’ defence strategy might involve which includes the debate about nuclear weapons (please see ‘Green Defence Strategy’ under Projects).
‘Environmental security’ is a phrase much used by policy-makers but definitions get increasingly stretched; climate change is often called a conflict ‘driver’ but what does that really mean? Are counter-poaching tactics that are increasingly being ‘militarised’ mimicking the tactics of counter-insurgency? These are just some of the questions posed by war and the non-human sphere.
The Marjan Centre has developed an inter-disciplinary approach both within King’s College and with other academic institutions as well as outside organisations. For anyone wishing to engage more closely with issues examined by the Marjan Centre they can enrol on the ‘War and the Non Human Sphere’ module option included in the War Studies MA programme, while the centre offers a Visiting Fellowship Programme and relevant PhD applications are welcomed.
(The Marjan Centre is named after a lion ‘Marjan’, who somehow survived Afghanistan’s violence while living inside Kabul zoo between 1978-2002 before dying of old age; having lived through such vast upheaval and fighting ‘Marjan’ seemed an appropriate symbol of both ‘conflict’ and the ‘non human sphere’).