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Militarized landscapes: an interdisciplinary workshop brings international scholars to campus

Libby Lunstrum and Lisa Brady, professors in the School of Public Service and the Department of History respectively, will host Militarized Landscapes: An Interdisciplinary Workshop in October that will explore the way the presence of the military and its activities transform the natural world, biophysical processes, people and their relationship to nature.

The event will feature a public talk on Oct. 20 by Eleana Kim, a professor of anthropology at the University of California Irvine about her book, “Making Peace with Nature: Ecological Encounters along the Korean DMZ.” The Korean Demilitarized Zone has been off-limits to human habitation for nearly 70 years, and in that time, biodiverse forms of life have flourished in and around it as beneficiaries of an unresolved war. But that flourishing, positive from a biological standpoint, is complicated in the ways it has affected traditional farming and land use.

Lunstrum and Brady work on different aspects of military landscapes in their research. Brady studies how military action changes the natural world. She has written on the American Civil War, the Korean War and on the global extent of the American military’s environmental footprint. Lunstrum studies the recovery of nature after conflict, Indigenous-led ecological restoration and green militarization, or the militarization of conservation practice especially in response to the illegal wildlife trade.

The workshop will bring 24 scholars from around the world to Boise. They will present their research on militarized landscapes from a variety of angles including history, geography and cultural studies. The aim, Brady said, is to publish research presented at the workshop for a wider, international audience. Leslie Durham, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, championed the project and supported it financially. Programs within the School of Public Service, the College of Innovation and Design and the history and world language departments also contributed.

The workshop and Kim’s public talk is a good fit for Idaho and Boise State, Brady said, crediting the appeal of the subject matter. Though the ongoing war in Ukraine will not be a subject at the workshop, it has focused public attention on militarized landscapes and war’s impact on nature.

Different disciplines define militarized landscapes differently. A historian may define them as places where military activity has left a lasting impact. But there are other perspectives. One of the papers at the workshop concerns “Cop City,” a controversial, proposed police training facility in Atlanta, Georgia that if built, would affect green space traditionally used by Black residents. “You have a tension there, militarizing park space in a disenfranchised part of Atlanta,” Brady said.

The question of militarized landscapes is also relevant in the Treasure Valley. Consider the founding of Boise as a military fort, or the proximity of Mountain Home Air Force Base and military aircraft training in the skies nearby.

“Militarized landscapes are everywhere. We need to understand them from every perspective and this workshop is a step towards doing that,” Brady said, adding that she and Lunstrum hope the workshop, the first of its kind for Boise State, will set a precedent and put the. university on the map as a hub for interdisciplinary and collaborative humanities and social sciences research.