A European Perspective on War Disability in the Twentieth Century
Call for Papers
Location: Siegen, Germany
Institution: University of Siegen
Organization: Prof. Dr. Noyan Dinçkal, Modern European History of Knowledge and Communication, University of Siegen; Prof. Dr. Sabine Schleiermacher, Contemporary History, Institute for the History of Medicine and Ethics in Medicine, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Date: 28 June 2019 – 29 June 2019
Submission deadline for proposals: 31.1.2019
The topic of war injuries increasingly becomes a subject of historical research. In the light of only a few recent examples – the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s, the Golf Wars, or the current ‘war against terror’ – the need for an historical interpretation of the effects of military conflicts on the countries involved seems to grow. The questions regarding the strategies of dealing with and compensating disabled veterans is of growing public interest, as the current debates about PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) show.
It has often been pointed out that the wars of the twentieth century – especially the two World Wars – were characterised by a decrease of the inhibition level for violence and a previously unknown level of mobilisation and destruction of material and human resources. In World War II alone, more than 50 million people were killed or heavily injured. Because of the interaction of mechanical destruction and the use of scientific-medical means to preserve life, more and more soldiers survived despite their severe injuries. However, post-war societies were not only shaped by the presence of disabled veterans but also by that of civilian victims and their battles for recognition. War disability was not at the margins of society but a truly central aspect of European post-war societies in the twentieth century.
With this in mind, the workshop sets out to discuss the meaning of disabled veterans subject to physical and/or mental injuries for the history of modern European societies. The workshop aims to combine different research perspectives. Possible topics are discourses on war disability, individual or collective experiences of suffering, or questions regarding the politics of welfare and compensation. Contributionswhich offer a methodological/conceptual approach to the topic are just as welcome as comparative or transnational perspectives or analyses of specific cases.
Possible topics for proposals include, but are not limited to:
Disabled veterans and modern welfare politics
In this context it might be asked what consequences the handling of injured war victims had on the development of the modern welfare state. What problems and challenges did they present for European post-war societies and how did welfare legislation respond? What effects had the evaluation of military combat on the development of welfare politics? Can national differences be observed and did the resulting means of support influence a public welfare agenda?
The presence of disabled veterans in European post-war societies did bear a symbolic meaning. How were war injuries perceived by the public and which social meanings were ascribed to them? Which status did the injured have, e.g. in public rituals of remembrance? Were they treated differently depending on whether their country had won or lost the war? How did the war invalid become an embodiment of the destructive consequences of war or of the symbolic appreciation of the nation?
Body and gender
In this context, it might be asked how the presence of disabled veterans in the public and everyday life shaped collective body images. Generally, men who had been injured in war influenced both the image of ‘disability’ and national war victim policies. Consequently, this perception overwhelmed the perspective on women injured in wars. What role did the rehabilitation of the injured male body play in the debates on the ‘reconstruction’ of the family and the efforts to ‘morally stabilise’ post-war societies? What role did certain ideals of masculinity (e.g. that of the male protector and provider) play in this respect? Did welfare political interventions restore traditional gender relations or did the restriction of abilities offer the possibility of revising gender-specific structures? Papers highlighting the role of women and children injured in wars will be highly appreciated.
Rehabilitation, Medicine, Prosthetics
The body of war victims became an object of scientific-technological interventions. Here, it must be asked to which extent war invalids played a role in the acceptance of medical-technological solutions to overcome ‘disability’. The medical ‘attempts at reconstruction’ focussed especially on the normalisation of physical damages, e.g. through prosthetics, and only gradually on mental injuries, too. What scientific and technological body images determined these processes, how did they change in the course of the century, and how did they differ in specific post-war societies, e.g. with respect to measures of rehabilitation? What social norms did they express and how did they shape the normative image of disabled war victims? And, conversely, how did patterns of rehabilitation and the social expectations connected with them affect the injured themselves?
Another possible focus is the aspect of mediality, e.g. the representation disabled soldiers in literature, music, the fine arts, as well as in monuments and in popular media like film or comics. During the twentieth century, the disabled veteran became a central figure in both pro- and anti-war discourses. The presence of injuries and mutilation as a consequence of military conflicts in news reels always implied questions of political and moral legitimisation of war. Papers on media representation of war injuries seem promising in this context.
The above mentioned aspects and questions are merely suggestions and serve to provide an initial overview.
Please submit an outline of your paper comprising roughly 2.500 characters as well as a short academic CV via e-mail to email@example.com no later than 31.1.2019.
Travel and accommodation expenses might be granted, provided sufficient funds are available.
If you have any questions regarding the organisation of the workshop, please contact
Prof. Dr. Noyan Dinçkal, Modern European History of Knowledge and Communication, University of Siegen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Prof. Dr. Sabine Schleiermacher, Institute for the History of Medicine and Ethics in Medicine, Contemporary History, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin (email@example.com)