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Robbins Lecture: The Witness of War and Moral Injury in Modern Conflict

  • Course Dates: Wed 18 March 2020, 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm

+++ please note this event has been postponed. Email us to be contacted with the new date when it has been set +++

 ‘I believe, help thou mine unbelief’ –

The Witness of War and Moral Injury in Modern Conflict

The tactical level witness of 21st century war reveals changes in belief among military personnel during their operational experience, which exposes existential flaws in the justification for and efficacy of military force.  Not for the first time, the dynamic of war in Afghanistan and Iraq has fostered a generation of veterans’ writing that provides powerful evidence for both the psychological injury resulting from that service, and the way that this injury manifests itself at work and beyond.  Do civilian and military leaders have a moral obligation to listen, read and engage with the tactical level experience as both informing their decision making and assuming their moral risk for war?

From her record of work on the frontlines in Afghanistan, Russian Federation, Iraq, Sudan, South Sudan and the Balkans, Holly knows from direct experience that significant changes in 21st century warfare have challenged the conventional postures and identities of both the military and humanitarian professions.

Holly will offer a reflection on the moral character of events thought to injure uniformed personnel from direct experience and her unique witness informed by service both as a traditional aid worker and stabilization advisor to both military training and operations.

It is the far journey up close and confronted by harsh contrasts, adrenaline heights and anticlimactic mendacity.  It’s the intensity of witnessing humankind at its extraordinary best and crushing worst that makes it so hard to ever fully go home again.

This talk is based on the idea that listening to the people who fight is more important than ever and providing a tactical level reckoning of the impact and utility of conventional operations forces in the metaphorical ‘forever war’ in which we find ourselves.

Please note a booking is required for this free event. Contact courses@sarum.ac.uk to book your place.

Course Details

Wed 18 March 2020
6:30 pm to 8:30 pm


Sarum College
Michael Ramsey Centre for Anglican Students, University of Durham

Holly Hughson is a practitioner researcher and writer, having worked for almost two decades in high-stakes crisis response, humanitarian action and civil-military coordination. As a frontline witness to 21st century conflict, She has experienced and seen the physical and mental toll of modern conflict on its practitioners. Holly has a chapter in a book recently published from the U.S. Naval Institute Press, “The Military is Not the Sole Profession on the Battlefield” in Redefining the Modern Military – The Intersection of Professional and Ethics, Edited by N.K. Finney and T.O. Mayfield, Annapolis: US Naval Institute Press, 2018.
Course Price:
free admission but booking is required: courses@sarum.ac.uk