Prof Lindy Heinecken, one of the leading military sociologists in South Africa from the Sociology and Social Anthropology Department at Stellenbosch University, was recently appointed as the President of the International Sociological Association's (ISA) Armed Forces and Conflict Resolution Research Committee (RC01) for a three-year term.
The RC01 aims to “develop professional contacts between sociologists of armed forces and conflict resolution throughout the world; encourage the international exchange of research findings, theoretical developments, and methodologies in the sociology of armed forces; promote the teaching of course materials dealing with armed forces and conflict resolution at undergraduate and postgraduate levels; and promote international meetings and research collaboration in the field". The committee has just under 200 members and is the most representative scholarly body on studying armed forces in society, with members from Eastern Europe, Asia, Europe and America.
On her election as President of RC01 she says: “I did not expect this at all."
Heinecken is based in one of the few sociology departments in South Africa to do research and teaching in military sociology and her work has also earned her certification by the ISA Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology as a registered Certified Sociological Practitioner.
“It is really a great honour to be elected as president of one of ISA's research committees because it doesn't just broaden your networks within the field of military sociology, but offers the chance to interact with presidents of other research committees of the International Sociological Association."
Heinecken has been involved in ISA for the last 10 years, serving on the Executive Committee of RC01 and as the Programme Coordinator for the Association's World Congress of Sociology for RC01, which was held in Canada from 15 to 21 July.
She says that she will focus quite strongly on “steering the RCO1 in a specific direction by showing how sociological theory informs research and practice and how this has influenced policy and decision-making".
This is after all a research field she has been immersed in for over three decades. As one of the leading experts on the military, Heinecken has worked as a researcher at the Centre for Military Studies (CEMIS) at the South African Military Academy, taking over as Deputy Director and Senior Researcher in 1996 up to 2006. She also served on the Council of the South African Sociological Association (SASA), on the Board of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society and serves on the editorial board of the Armed Forces and Society Journal and Scientia Militaria, South African Journal of Military Studies.
Her inaugural lecture, which took place in 2014, focused on The Military, War and Society: The Achilles Heel of Sociology and the Need for Reflection and highlights some of the matters that Heinecken refers to.
“The study of the military, war and society remains at the fringes of the sociology discipline and is often invisible to students of sociology. This is despite the fact that war continues to have a profound effect on humankind, not least on our own continent where violent conflict continues to undermine human security and development. It therefore comes as no surprise that the theme of the ISA 2018 conference was on Power, Violence and Social Justice, which emphasised the importance of sociologists to pay more attention to the study of violence and armed conflict in the world today."
Given this focus, and her role in RC01, she has secured that the RC01 Armed Conflict and Conflict Resolution Conference will be held in Stellenbosch in 2020. The intention is to attract leading African scholars to this event in order to discuss the effect of war on society and means and methods of conflict resolution.
According to Heinecken, the RCO1 has made significant progress with regards to the study of the military in society. It has produced a number of valuable collaborative and international studies on the military that have become a rich source of information, not only for academics and policy makers, but military practitioners as well.
The research shared through the ISA journals are an important source to help academics and policy makers understand what is happening within the international military arena and how different countries deal with different military-related matters. Heinecken is due to publish her own book, titled South Africa's post-apartheid military: Lost in Transition and Transformation, which addresses the challenges that the military has faced adapting to the new security, political, legal and social environment.
Photo: Prof Linday Heinecken with Prof Marina Nuciari from Italy with a recent publication titled The Handbook of Sociology of the Militarywhich includes the contributions of RCO1 scholars. (Supplied)