‘Homecoming' after war: An After-Action Report by Niels Boender
On Saturday the 20th of May, we brought together at the University of Warwick an international group of scholars working on various themes relating to themes of post-war return. The desired outcome was to initiate a discussion between scholars across disciplines, geographies, and periods, thinking about the subjective dimensions of homecoming. This is significant as this field has long been dominated by normative and prescriptive social science analysis. We were particularly interested how literary theory and criticism might fertilise detailed historical analysis, and specific examples from the past might enrich and nuance broader theorisation.
Our keynote speaker Kate McLaughlin from the University of Oxford got us going with a fascinating, challenging and provocative talk on the ‘silent’ veteran, using the particular example of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. Her remarkable interweaving of philosophical theory, in particular drawing on Gayatri Spivak’s ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’, and close literary analysis, was remarkably applicable to historical analysis. Through the speech she made the figure of the ‘silent veteran’, a problematic in all our studies, a fruitful field of analysis. The importance of ‘listening’ to the silences was particularly resonant and significant to all the presenter’s studies.
The first session ‘What home? Disrupted Homecomings’ spoke very closely to some of the key themes of the conference. All three papers stressed different dimensions of the problematic of ‘home’: what constitutes home in the post-war, across time and place, and for different individuals. Professor Taylor Soja’s discussion of a British officer, dragged backward and forward across the Empire in the ‘Small Wars’ of the late-Victorian era, complicated how ‘home’ for many could be the Front itself, but also how this would change over one’s life. On the other side of the colonial divide, Rose Miyonga gave an account of the inability of many Kenyan men and women to come home, even 60 years after the Mau Mau conflict. Due to close ancestral ties to their land, which was taken by the colonial government, people continue to feel discombobulated so long afterwards. War however can also provide a tool for making one’s idea of home much more secure, as Amy Carney elucidated. In studying a German-born Jewish soldier in the American Army, she revealed that the war itself crystallised his identity as an American, which became, undisputedly, home.
Our next panel considered how women specifically experienced, and are represented in accounts of, post-war homecoming. Alison Fell gave a remarkable account of what place combatant women came to have in post-war memory and myth-making. Due to women’s personification as the nation, tied closely to traditional ideas of motherhood, the image of homecoming was the putting down of the rifle, used to protect the home, and the taking up once again of mothering roles. In a different register, Marcin Filipowicz analysed contemporary Czech literature to illustrate how women’s homecomings disrupt easy theorisations of good and evil in post-war contexts. His powerful rendition of a scene of violent homecoming of a female holocaust survivor, with real bearing on how we consider post-war homecoming, precisely indicated the value of an interdisciplinary approach to this subject.
The third and largest panel of the day considered the broad question of the politics of homecoming, and especially how veterans made claims on the state. Robin Bates introduced to the conference a theme which would come up repeatedly, the battle for veteran’s rights, in his case, Union veterans of the American Civil War. His conception of the struggle for veteran’s rights contrasted the very different idea of the veteran in contemporary Russia. Elena Racheva shared how since the fall of the Soviet Union the state has weaponised veterans for their own ends, slowly incorporating the wars in Chechnya and Afghanistan as part of a glorious struggle in the defence of Russia. The instrumentalisation of veteran’s status was similarly demonstrated in Drew Flanagan’s discussion of French far-right activist François de la Rocque, who used his status of front-line soldier to resist allegations of collaboration. The final speaker of the panel, Susan Carruthers, spoke to a very different way post-war homecoming was framed by the state - through the British offering of ‘demob’ suits to returning servicemen. Hereby they were to be re-civilianised, although multiple groups (i.e women) were excluded.
Ably chaired by Holly Furneaux, our fourth panel brought the focus specifically on disability-centric histories of Homecoming. Nick Bailey spoke to a specific institution that mediated disabled homecomings, the British Corps of Commissionaires, with strong disciplinary overtones. This genealogy of veteran’s rights was continued by Michael Robinson, who discussed debates about provisions for veterans across Canada, Britain and Australia in the 1920s and 1930s, with a special focus on ‘invisible disabilities’. The different treatment in different countries was also reflected in Sofya Anisimova’s excellent reflection on disabled Imperial Russian officer veterans. Here too was remarkable picture of fluctuation over time, and the political uses of disability by the veterans themselves.
The final panel tied together many of the themes of the conference, discussing how veterans produce narratives that reflect on their homecoming. Chloe Storer spoke on reticence in her own oral histories with British Afghan veterans, linking back to the notions of silence considered in the keynote speech. Eamonn O’Keeffe spoke by contrast on a very talkative veteran, Shadrick Byfield, who leveraged his literacy and experiences with members of the elite to survive in Victorian Britain. The final speaker of our conference Dimo Georgiev showed how the staid, jargonistic, novels of Bulgarian International Brigadiers became standard reading in socialist Bulgaria, omitting the difficult realities of homecoming.
Altogether, the conference met the objectives we set wholeheartedly. This panoply of scholars has a real contribution to make to the study of the post-war, and to that end we seek to keep the momentum going with an edited collection. Such an opportunity is available with Routledge’s Warwick Series in the Humanities, which we hope to take advantage of in the coming months.
Teaching Medieval French - Conference Report by Emma Campbell
Title of Conference:
Teaching Medieval French: Sustainable Approaches for the Next Generation
Dates: 27-29 April 2023
Organisers: Emma Campbell and Liam Lewis
Background and Objectives
This three-day event for U.K.-based university teachers, researchers, and early career academics came out of two online ‘state-of-the-discipline’ workshops for Medieval French Studies organised in 2022. Responding to a need identified at those workshops, this in-person event at the University of Warwick enabled participants to develop new, sustainable, interdisciplinary approaches to teaching medieval French materials to undergraduates across a range of HE institutions.
The interconnected aims of this event were: (1) to introduce participants to strategies that they could take forward in their teaching practice, (2) to provide space and time for attendees to workshop ideas they could integrate directly into their present or future teaching, and (3) to discuss the sharing and development of pedagogical resources cross-institutionally. To that end, invited speakers with expertise in areas that intersect with studies of medieval French–particularly performance studies, visual culture, and material culture–led workshops aimed at providing participants with a set of tools for their own practice. Participants worked on existing course materials or on new ideas in ‘developing ideas’ sessions incorporated into the workshops. There was a final session dedicated to discussing practical strategies for sharing resources and sources of potential funding.
Thursday 27 April: Texts & Material Culture
1-2pm: How to teach with medieval architecture (Jenny Alexander)
2-3pm: Developing ideas session
3-4pm: How to use collaborative transcription and editing (Laura Morreale)
4-5pm: Developing ideas session
5-6pm: How to grow our community—a discussion led by Grapevine charity
6-7pm: Networking, with drinks reception
7pm: Dinner on campus
Friday 28 April: Visual Culture & Interdisciplinary Work
10-11am: How to teach with medieval images (Debra Strickland)
11am-12pm: Developing ideas session
12-1pm: How to approach interdisciplinary work (Liam Lewis and Harriet Jean Evans)
2-3pm: How to teach with medieval mapping (Marianne O’Doherty)
3-4pm: Developing ideas session
7pm: Performance at St Mary's Guildhall of ‘Silence’ by Rachel Rose Reid, followed by an after-show talk at 9pm.
Saturday 29 April: Performance
10-11.30am: Storytelling Workshop with Rachel Rose Reid
12-1pm: How to teach with storytelling (Daisy Black and Jane Bonsall)
2-3pm: How to teach with medieval song (Emma Dillon)
3-4pm: Developing ideas session
4-5pm: How to foster cross-institutional support and sharing of resources—discussion led by Emma Campbell
The planned outcomes of the event were all met or surpassed. These can be summarised as follows:
- New teaching resources and approaches. Participants left the workshops equipped with new materials and methodologies for teaching medieval French literature culture immediately usable in their own institutional contexts. Where possible, sessions were recorded. These are currently being edited and will be made available online, so others can use them.
We had numerous messages of thanks from participants after the event. For instance, a senior colleague emailed to say how generative the workshops had been for her: ‘My huge thanks to you and Liam, and your amazing speakers. It was a really fab few days. I feel really regenerated.’ Another colleague highlighted the value of the event for sharing ideas: ‘A huge thank you to you both for such a welcoming, inspiring event. It was the most innovative and exciting conference I have been to for a long time. Because of covid it has been a while since I have had a chance to meet and share ideas with colleagues outside my immediate circle, so this was very much welcome.’
- Strategies for collaborative working and resource sharing. The workshops enabled colleagues to explore practical strategies for sharing resources and expertise across institutions. The final session built on this by discussing actions for developing resources and possible platforms for cross-institutional collaboration. Emma Campbell is currently planning a follow-up meeting this summer to take these actions forward.
One of our speakers emailed after the workshops to say she had already started to work with other participants: ‘Since the event I’ve already got a little team of people to work on that Mandeville manuscript I showed and am also talking to Daisy about some kind of map-based public engagement project. It’s been not just brilliant for teaching ideas but also for research collaborations. I’d love to find out about any more events run with / by this group.’
Another speaker emphasised the importance of the interdisciplinary exchanges: ‘Just a note of warmest thanks for a truly wonderful couple of days. I had the best time!!! I absolutely loved the workshops on storytelling as well as the magical performance of Silence. And it was such a lovely context for me to share ideas about teaching and also about the MUSLIVE project. I learnt so much from the conversations. Moreover, it was such an engaged and welcoming gathering -- I was so glad to be there. So many, many congratulations on convening such a marvellous event. I know, too, how much work went into this, both with the logistics and also building such a brilliant programme. Thank you.’
One mid-career colleague highlighted the importance of the networking that took place, as well as the pedagogical benefits of the workshops: ‘What a fantastic occasion the teaching workshop was! It was wonderful to see so many colleagues, and to meet new ones. I found it a truly inspirational moment, and it came at just the right time as I reflect on the relationship between teaching and research in my future work. Well done!’
- Future funding bids. We anticipate future funding bids to facilitate collaborations with community partners. Additional funding plans to support cross-institutional sharing of resources are under discussion (see above).
- Professional development. Participants of all career stages were able to learn new skills and integrate those into teaching plans.
- Community engagement. The workshops included a session co-led by Grapevine charity. There was also a public performance of a medieval text at Coventry’s Guildhall, a public after-show discussion, and a storytelling workshop accessible to the public.
HRC funding covered the cost of inviting external speakers to campus, as well as some of the cost of admin support for the event. In addition, the HRC Visiting Speakers Fund enabled us to host an overseas presenter, Laura Morreale, who would otherwise have been unable to attend. We are grateful to the HRC for generously increasing the VSF award to cover unexpected price increases in Dr Morreale’s flights.
25 May 2023
EMECC - IAS Visiting Professorship: Professor Dena Goodman (University of Michigan) - 6th-10th June
Between 6 and 10 June the Early Modern and Eighteenth-Century Centre and Department of History are hosting an IAS Visiting Professorship: Professor Dena Goodman (University of Michigan)
- Lunchtime talk: ‘Peace Dividends: Collective Kangaroos for Science, Public, and Nation During the Peace of Amiens’ (post attached), discussant Michael Bycroft, 6 June, 12-2pm, FAB 2.43.
- Postgraduate and Early Career Discussion ‘Understanding the American Academic System’, Tuesday 6 June, 3-5pm, FAB 5.01.
- Conference, ‘Sociability in Politics, Food and Travel in the Early Modern Era’ (see attached poster), Keynotes from Rebecca Earle (Warwick) and Dena Goodman (Michigan), 8-10 June.
The Early Modern and Eighteenth-Century Centre at the University of Warwick, together with GIS Sociabilités/Sociability network in France, aims to explore the intersection of sociability with the themes of food, politics and travel in the early modern period (1550-1850).
Historical research on sociability has been developing for several decades. It has been enriched by theoretical frameworks for understanding networks and the rise of public spheres. Sociology and cultural anthropology have been especially helpful for conceptualising how, why and the conditions under which people interact in specific ways. Recent studies of emotions – individual and collective – have thrown light on various forms of sociability. Although there is a rich literature on the topic to draw from, the aim of this conference is to home in on how sociability was imbricated in other cultural phenomena. We are especially interested in exploring the relationship between sociability and political culture, food and drink studies, and trade, travel, and overseas exchange.
Conference programme here: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/history/ecc/eventsnew/sociability_politics/.
To register, email EMECC@Warwick.ac.uk indicating the days you wish to attend.
For further details about these events please contact Naomi Pullin firstname.lastname@example.org and Charles Walton email@example.com
Uki Goñi, ‘The Real Odessa: How Nazi War Criminals Escaped Europe’ - Report
Generously sponsored by the Humanities Research Centre, the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, the School of Law, and the European History Research Centre.
The large influx of fugitive Nazis and collaborators in post-WWII Argentina created an environment that normalized the presence of such heinous criminals in society and by doing so facilitated the crimes of Argentina's own genocidal dictatorship in 1976-83. “If you're a neighbour to Adolf Eichmann or Josef Mengele, or just a random German that you knew did bad things during the war, what does this do to you? It means that once these things start happening in your own country, society has acquired the habit of coexisting with evil,” says Goñi. A witness to the erasure of truth as a measurable reference, of the moral decay and the normalization of violence that preceded Argentina's 1976 military coup, Goñi sees alarming parallels with the extreme views and abusive behaviour in current political discourse. The author believes the dictatorship survival skills he acquired under Argentina's military junta could prove useful in such an environment.
Uki Goñi is best known for his book The Real Odessa: How Nazi War Criminals Escaped Europe, augmented edition, Granta Books, London, 2022, resulting in numerous appearances in documentaries on the topic by the BBC, Discovery, NatGeo and PBS. As a journalist he was written a series of stories on human rights and the environment for the Guardian, op-eds for the New York Times and essays on authoritarianism and racism for the New York Review of Books. Born in the US to an Argentine family, he was raised in Dublin where he lived until the age of 21. He resides in Buenos Aires.
Uki Goñi, investigative journalist for several international newspapers of record, spoke on 15 May 2023 about the expanded edition of his book The Real Odessa, to an audience of 30 students and staff at Warwick. Rather than reprising the content of his book, he explained the reasons why he wrote it. He offered unique and important insights into the origins of the Argentine dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s, recalling for example his childhood in Dublin as the son of the Argentine ambassador in the late sixties welcoming some of the military representatives who would go on to declare and wage a bitter cultural war against the left in Argentina – initiating a cultural attack comparable to the cultural wars discussed today. He traced the origins of this mentality to Nazi Germany and connected it to the role of Argentine President Juan Perón in enabling the escape of Nazis to South America at the end of World War Two. Goñi’s vision thus looked back from the Argentina of the junta to the legacy of WWII while also demonstrating the relevance of exposing such public discourses today. He also explored the process of locating, accessing and divulging sources, narrating instances of lost and burned documents, and those difficult to access because of official policies. Goñi’s forensic research has been used in legal trials in Argentina, illustrating the value of the ethical investigative approach that he employs The audience was thus treated to an excellent discussion of methodology and the value of challenging prevailing policies as they influence access to materials. Questions covered the dilemma for a journalist of being called to testify in public, which for Goñi comes down to his commitment the truth held in concealed and hidden archives, the responsibility of the researcher in relation to individual and highly charged stories, and his future book plans.
Goñi also exchanged thoughts with a group of researchers in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, deepening the discussion about strategies for accessing archives which officialdom may wish to keep out of reach and offering his views of journalism and the problems of so-called media ‘balance’ in the era of ‘fake news’. The conversation was an especially valuable insight, from a professional and practice-focused angle, into questions which concern academia at present, but also opened up a discussion about how they might be navigated.
The aim of this visit was to give students an insight into how to research and manage materials relating to multiple archives and contentious historical topics. It also brought together students from a variety of disciplines (Languages, Law, History, Creative Writing) with research overlaps but who may not always come together to discuss them, as well as the wider university in an exchange about research ethics. In this sense, the objectives were met. Goñi met a number of researchers working on Latin America for whom this connection could be helpful in the future, and the visit put Warwick firmly on the map of interdisciplinary scholarship in how to manage contested pasts. Goñi will also speak in London (introduced by Guardian journalist Jonathan Freeland) and Dublin, with acknowledgement of Warwick in enabling his trip. While there are no immediate outcomes, the connection should bear future fruit and is reputationally important.
In this blog post, Charlotte, Lizzie and Maddie reflect on running the conference Territorial Bodies: World Culture in Crisis, which took place in February 2023.
A Conversation between the Conference Organisers: On the Day (Featuring Comparative Literature PhD
Writing about web page https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/hrc/confs/territorialbodies/
In this blog post, Charlotte and Maddie reflect on their experience organising the conference Territorial Bodies: World Culture in Crisis, which took place in February 2023.
A Conversation between the Conference Organisers: The Build–Up
Writing about web page https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/hrc/confs/territorialbodies/