The ”Justice and War: The Experiences of Military Personnel and their Families” program works with veterans, active service members, their families, and civilians to explore the relationship between the lived experience of war and concepts of justice. The program puts participants’ own experiences in dialogue with the past through discussion prompts that flesh out the concept of justice through themes such as duty, heroism, suffering, loyalty, and patriotism. 

Program Elements

There are four components to this program:

  1. a new series of university courses on justice and war
  2. a podcast with veterans and active service members that examines the historical experience of war
  3. a public humanities seminar series that brings together community members to discuss the themes of justice and war
  4. a training program for seminar leaders
  5. an open access, online platform that includes pedagogical materials, training frameworks, historical documents, and video so that the program can be replicated both in Indianapolis and in other communities..

Program Format

The project includes formal (university courses) and semi-formal (public discussion groups) approaches to conducting dialogues on the experience of war. Participants can decide to delve deep in an academic context and get credit by taking university courses that focus on the experience of war and concepts of justice. Or, they can come together to explore these same ideas in public discussions groups led by veterans and faculty members at public library locations around Indianapolis. Importantly for military personnel and their families, both the courses and the discussion programs will work with them to make sense of their experiences and put their own encounters with war in a comparative historical perspective.             

University Courses

U.S. Military History (Fall 2021)

This first course in the series offered a history of U.S. military operations since the North American colonial era and their impact on all aspects of American society. Its themes were core military institutions, the historic impacts of industrial-scale American small arms manufacture, and the constant impact of new, mass-produced weapons technologies on the conduct of warfare and the development of American society overall in modern times. The origins, evolution, technology, and cultural implications of American global military airpower supremacy in modern times was a prominent theme throughout the class. 

Just War (Spring 2022)

The second course, offered in Fall 2022, focused on warfare, justice, and U.S history from the Spanish-American War through the Vietnam War. It is an interdisciplinary course that uses the rich research of historians, belle-lettrists, philosophers, anthropologists, strategists, theologians, and military leaders—as well as primary accounts by service members and veterans—to engage students in an exploration of modern historical experience of war. Both of these courses place a high value on reading and discussion and will be offered in a combination of lecture and seminar formats. 

The Experience of War (Spring 2023)

Offered as an open online course, The Experience of War provides a long history exploring the relationship between justice, war, and the lived experience of soldiers and their families over several thousand years. Divided into three parts, the first portion covers ancient writing on war, including works from Mesopotamia, India, Greece, and China. The second part of the course introduces students to these concepts in the context of imperialism in the early modern period. The third part of the course investigates “total war,” which was so central to the experience of war during the twentieth century.  

Public Seminars

Because the public discussion programs take place outside the context of a university course, we have chosen readings and films that are accessible and relatively short. Like the formal courses, we have taken an interdisciplinary approach to the content. Consequently, there is fiction and non-fiction as well as primary and secondary sources. Whereas the university courses are chronological, the public discussions programs are thematic. We have organized each discussion around a theme in just war theory: jus ad bellum (or having a just cause to fight); jus in bello (or conducting a just war); and jus post bellum (or creating a just peace). These themes are meant to provoke dialogue; to encourage attendees to think about the nature of duty, heroism, suffering, loyalty, and patriotism; and to prompt reflections about their own experiences and how they relate to historical and philosophical themes. 

Discussion Leader Training

Because of the complexity of the ideas that we will be discussing in the courses and public discussion groups, we have designed a 3-day training course for Discussion Leaders. This training course will bring in experts from the university and veterans’ organizations as well as content experts from around the country to guide the Discussion Leaders on pedagogical techniques, facilitating discussions, philosophical and historical content, and responding to mental health issues that might emerge from discussions.

This course will include short lectures, discussions, and collaborative projects. We will record the lectures and include them as content on the online platform. The purpose of the online platform will be to extend the reach of the training program, university courses, and public seminars. We will make our training materials and resources open access content as well as include information on best practices for other communities wishing to replicate or to create similar programming.

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