Call for Papers – The British Empire and the Great War: Colonial Societies/ Cultural Responses

british-empireAbstract Deadline: 14th June 2013. Conference to be held from 20-22 February 2014.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War in July 1914, Nanyang Technological University invites speakers to participate in an international conference to be held in Singapore from 20-22 February 2014. Confirmed Keynote Speakers are: Tim Barringer, Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art, Yale University; John M. MacKenzie, Emeritus Professor in Imperial History, Lancaster University; Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of the History of War, University of Oxford; and Jay Winter, Charles J. Stille Professor of History, Yale University.

Rationale: ‘The foundation of empire is art and science. Remove them or degrade them, and the empire is no more. Empire follows art and not vice versa as Englishmen suppose.’ William Blake, ‘Annotations to Reynolds’ Discourses’ in Joshua Reynolds, Discourses on Art (Yale University Press, 1975), p. 285.

‘When the “Studies in Imperialism” series was founded more than twenty-years ago, emphasis was laid upon the conviction that “imperialism as a cultural phenomenon has as significant an effect on the dominant as on the subordinate societies”,’ Professor John M. MacKenzie, on the series description of ‘Studies in Imperialism’ for Manchester University Press.

In 1914 almost one quarter of the earth’s surface was British. When that same empire and its allies went to war in 1914 against the Central Powers, history’s first global conflict was inevitable. The statistics speak for themselves in terms of recruited soldiers and auxiliaries from the British Empire: 1,300,000 Indian, 500,000 Canadian, 300,000 Australian, 100,000 New Zealand; 80,000 South African; 15,000 West Indian and Cypriot. They came too, in smaller numbers, from places like Rhodesia, Tonga, the Falkland Islands, Ceylon and Kuwait.

It is the social and cultural reactions within these distant, often overlooked, societies now thrust into the mainstream of modern industrial conflict, which is the focus of this conference. The organisers are especially interested in papers which allow a decentralisation of socio-cultural analysis away from the more predictable metropolitan perspective (and away from the monolithic notion of empire) to focus instead on contrasts and complementarities of ideology throughout the geographical and ethnic extremes of both the ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ empire. From Singapore to Australia, Cyprus to Ireland, India to Jamaica, and around the rest of the British imperial world, further complexities and interlocking themes will be addressed, for example; how different strata and subsets of imperial society shaped and were shaped by the experience of total war; and how disparate societies and cultures – in all their manifestations and on their various ‘home fronts’ – shaped and were shaped by the war. As the thematic list below indicates, this conference will be of particular interest to those actively researching amongst other things: imperial and colonial history / theory, war and society, war and culture, art history, cultural studies, music history, photography, propaganda, education, pacifism, gender studies, class and race structures / relations, at the end of the pax Britannica.

The themes of the conference must relate to British colonial societies and culture of the Great War and might very well include (but not necessarily be restricted to) the following areas:-

  • Cultural reflection, formation, creation and deception.
  • Indigenous and diaspora responses
  • Constructions of the English and / or British Empire?
  • Nationalism versus trans-nationalism
  • Inter-cultural and / or multi-cultural responses
  • Cultural erasure and historiography
  • Mimicry, mediation and masculinity
  • Migration and transformation
  • Religion, secularism, philanthropy and missionaries
  • Archaeology, museums and collecting
  • Ideological binaries from the metropole to the periphery
  • Civil liberties in the empire
  • Imperial pacifism and conscientious objectors
  • Cultural / imperial rivalry between allies
  • Colonial women and women in the empire
  • ‘High’ versus ‘low’ cultural responses to war
  • Propaganda and the empire
  • Film and the empire
  • Music and the empire
  • Artists and the perspectives of artists
  • Poets / authors and the written word (including children’s literature).
  • Photography and perspectives of photographers
  • Imperial broadcasting and popular entertainment
  • Linguistics and change
  • Colonial political elites
  • Imperial/colonial forces
  • Imperial/colonial loyalties and disloyalties
  • Race relations at the front, at the centre, and at the periphery
  • Shaping of collective identities
  • Educating the young: History text books throughout the empire
  • University education, intellectual elites and the next generation

A 200-word abstract and a short biography of about 100 words should be sent to both organisers by 14 June 2013.

Michael Walsh, Associate Professor in Art History, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Andrekos Varnava, Lecturer in Modern History, Flinders University,

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