War Memories Commemoration, Re - enactment, Writings of War in the English - speaking World (18 th - 21 st centuries) 17 > 19 June 2014

Call for papers

War Memories: Commemoration, Re-enactment, Writings of War

in the English-speaking World (18th-21st centuries)

Conference organised by the European University of Brittany (Rennes 2, France) and the Royal Military College (Kingston, Canada) 


 European University of Brittany – Rennes 2, France


17, 18, 19 June 2014


The wars of the past have not left the same imprint on collective memory. Wars of conquest or liberation have marked the history of the British Empire and its colonies in different ways.  American foreign policy seems to be motivated by what is sometimes viewed as an imperialist vision which led the army into the quagmire of Vietnam and more recently into controversial involvement in the Gulf. Whether they end in victory or defeat, or are a source of patriotic pride or collective shame, wars are commemorated in museum exhibitions or through literature and the cinema in which the threads of ideological discourse and the expression of subjective experience are intertwined. From the upheavals of the Napoleonic Wars and  the American Civil War to the Boer Wars in South Africa, from the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland to the carnage and devastation of the two World Wars, some conflicts seem to attract “duties of memory” while others are simply forgotten. Military interventions in the Falklands, in Bosnia, and more recently in the Gulf, in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in Libya have created a new kind of memory, the narrative constructed by television images. In this period preceding the 100th anniversary of the Great War, when the links between memory and history are central to historiographical preoccupations, this international conference will encompass the representations of wars in the English-speaking world during the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

Our workshops will concentrate, among other things, on:

1. The memories of places and the places of memory, commemorations and reconstitutions of wars (ceremonies, acts of remembrance, monuments, memorials, exhibitions, museums, war tourism, web sites, blogs…) and everything linking memory and places of memory with history (inspired by the reflexions of Pierre Nora and of François Bédarida).

2. Remembrance and testimonies in the public and private spheres from important political and military figures or from ordinary soldiers or civilians (autobiographies, diaries, memoirs, letters, interviews, newspaper articles, etc.), which bring into focus the role and status of testimony in historiography, individual and collective identities in times of war and the process of recalling and commemorating.

3. Representing war through the media (postcards, trench gazettes, caricatures, comics, posters, the press, radio, television, the internet…), through the cinema and through literature (drama, novels, poetry) and the Arts (music, painting, photography, sculpture), the image and spectacle of war, free and forced representations: propaganda, censorship, idealisation, the rewriting of history and the construction of the war hero.

4. Subject and subjectivity in the representation of war and the representation of the subject at war. To what extent does conflict integrate the subject into the group by posing the figure of the Other as the Enemy? How does war alter the definition of the subject in an ideological system and a discourse which legitimise the act of war and redefine hierarchies and identity patterns? Subjectivity, memory, trauma, the unsayable or untellable From trauma studies to fields where psychoanalysis, storytelling and history meet and to the temptation of contemporary hypermnesia and “archive fever” (Derrida).

5. Wars and memories of war involving indigenous peoples (Gurkhas, Native North Americans, Australian Aborigines, Maoris, etc.) and/or of non-English-speaking communities (Quebeckers, Afrikaners, etc.) in world conflicts. What traces and recollections remain of their individual or collective participation? To what extent can we say that the shedding of blood was the price they had to pay for national recognition and integration? How does the action of the native in the national cause square with the literary representation of him as an enemy? The contribution of indigenous peoples was long neglected, if not forgotten or marginalised, in official records. But is this still the case in today’s postcolonial societies? Has literature helped integration by allowing the emergence of new narratives?

6. Comparative and pluridisciplinary studies using a variety of approaches and methods will be welcome in a workshop dedicated to exchanges between areas with different cultural heritages (English- or French-speaking or within the Americas in particular) around the question of war and memory. Wars involving the United States on the American continent (Chile, Cuba, Mexico…) will also merit attention.

The mediatisation, performance, interpretation and rewriting of facts and events during and after wars will be central to our reflexions. We welcome diachronic, synchronic or comparative studies along with those questioning the process of memory and memorisation. Patriotic fervour, federating or demobilising discourses, resistance, conscientious objection, injury and trauma, propaganda and counter-propaganda contribute to the shaping of individual and collective memory and further the reconsideration of long-held truths in the light of new discoveries and with the benefit of hindsight. There will be a dedicated Great War workshop.