Out of the shadows: understanding, researching and teaching covert action
Dr Luca Trenta, Department of Political and Cultural Studies, has been awarded a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award (BARSEA). These awards are designed to enable established early career academics to actively engage in the work of the Academy and to enhance their own skills and career development through the organisation of events, training, and mentoring activities for a wide range of other early career researchers.
The aim of Dr Trenta's programme is twofold. First, the project will establish a network of early career researchers (ECRs) working on US and British covert action. This network will work alongside experienced academic to explore the challenges in understanding and researching covert action. Second, the ECR network will engage teachers of US and UK history and politics in order to increase the understanding of covert action and to expand the teaching of the subject in secondary education. Engagement events will permit participants to share resources, experiences and best practices. The network will also strengthen the sense of community between secondary and higher education through ECR presentations in schools, blog posts, podcasts, an essay competition for schools, and a comic book prototype.
The programme will establish a network of ECRs working on covert action (e.g. intelligence and paramilitary operations). The aim is to increase the visibility of the topic and to expand interest beyond higher education. Through collaboration with teachers at various levels of education the programme will help to include covert action in the curriculum. The topic permits students to engage with a sensitive and relevant issue fostering debate within the classroom and dispelling reliance on conspiratorial explanations of foreign policy. The identification of teaching and research resources and the inclusion of secondary school teachers in the drafting of teaching material will familiarise students with materials and approaches used in University.
The interdisciplinary nature of the covert action means researchers have limited opportunities to share their experiences. Expertise often remains within universities and does not inform secondary school teaching. American politics will be a compulsory element of the GCE AS and A levels for Government and Politics. Covert action plays a key role in debates on the Imperial Presidency and Executive power, included in the A2 unit of the WJEC draft. This project builds on research and contacts made during my project on the US government involvement in assassination supported by a British Academy Small Grant.
Engagement events will be held in May 2017 (IISS, London) and September 2017 (Swansea).