Narrative strategist joins ASU as professor of practice

By

Matt Oxford

Ajit Maan, a new professor of practice in the School of Politics and Global Studies and an affiliated faculty member with the Center on the Future of War, was in Tempe this July to film a lecture for her first semester teaching online at Arizona State University.

Maan is an internationally recognized security and defense analyst and narrative strategist. In 1999, she published her breakthrough theory of "internarrative identity." Then in 2014, Maan published "Counter-Terrorism: Narrative Strategies," which focuses on deconstructing dominant and coercive narratives and demonstrates how certain narrative structures lend themselves to manipulation and how the weaknesses of those structures can be exploited. Most recently, in 2017, she coined the term “narrative warfare” to refine what has been referred to as information wars and psychological warfare.

In her first semester, Maan will be teaching a course in ASU's MA in global security program. During her visit she took some time to share more about her research and what she hopes to accomplish while at ASU.

Question: In the early '90s, you developed the groundbreaking theory of internarrative identity, a road map for resilient identity created out of personal and cultural conflict. What initially piqued your interest in this field of study?

Answer: Two things combined to heighten my interest in the areas of narrative and conflict. First, I became familiar with narrative identity theory as a graduate student and its implications for self-creation but, secondly, there were some fundamental western assumptions built into the theory that are problematic for people like me. I've demonstrated that what are often considered problematic to a western sense of self — like conflict, experiential rupture, discontinuous or nonlinear sequencing of life events — are actually places of tremendous opportunity for self-creation.

Q: You’ve written a number of books including, "Counter-Terrorism: Narrative Strategies" and "Narrative Warfare." Are you currently working on another project?

A: On the academic side: I am working on a second edition of "Narrative Warfare" and writing the outline for a book on narrative identity analysis. I also continue to write articles for Homeland Security Today and other defense journals. On the business front: My business, Narrative Strategies, continues to work with the military and with private industry to help them understand prevailing narratives in certain areas and how to influence those narratives.

Q: Why did you decide to come to ASU as a professor of practice for the MA in global security online degree?

A: ASU provided an opportunity for me to design and teach a class in a comprehensive way. The university has a tremendous reputation for its cutting-edge work and I am delighted to be involved with the kind of innovation that is happening here.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as you work at the university?

A: I hope to draw attention to the foundational narrative and identity elements that are part of any conflict, from small to large scale, and how those foundational elements influence behavior in unconscious ways.