Restricting Knowledge. Channeling Security Information in Recent History

08.-09.12.2016, Konferenz, DHI Washington

Government security agencies are the ultimate information gluttons - and misers. Clearer than ever before is the ability of intelligence agencies to ingest vast reams of raw data. Much less well understood are the operations governments employ to transform staggeringly large volumes of information into knowledge relevant to policymakers. Which forms of information destined for security officials are deemed relevant? How do particular insights drawn from pools of data find their way into highly specialized briefings for a handful of decision-makers or limited disclosures to the public? How are other forms of information and secret knowledge discarded or declared irrelevant, and how have such operations of concealment evolved in different eras of modern history?

The purpose of this workshop is to retract the curtain on the practices and techniques used to restrict knowledge in recent history. With reference to German cases, a subsidiary aim is to shift attention from biographical continuities across the 1945 divide to methods of knowledge compartmentalization in cross-national historical perspectives

Not merely the influence security organizations wield in political decision-making, but rather the means used to cloak and stovepipe information warrant comparative historical scrutiny. To promote international discussion of the practices of removing, restricting, and channeling data in recent history, this workshop features brief presentations (maximum 20 minutes in length).

This call for papers invites contributions to workshop sessions. Topics for paper proposals may include (but are not strictly limited to):

  • Comparative Practices of Information Restriction
  • Circulating Security Information in Multinational Contexts
  • External Scholarly Review and Internal Security Concealment
  • Communication and Disclosure in Different Eras of Data-Collection
  • Archives and Cultures of State Secrecy in Transnational Perspectives.

Venues for this workshop are the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the German Historical Institute in Washington. Dates for the meeting are December 8-9, 2016. The conference language is English.