Convenor: Sophie De Schaepdrijver, Leverhulme Visiting Professor 2016-2017 firstname.lastname@example.org
This small-scale conference addresses the nexus between “body” and “soil” in First World War Europe. It aims to examine the link between, on the one hand, the war’s damage to the human body, and, on the other hand, how the very conduct of the war invested space with meaning, which in turn allowed for the countenancing of bodily damage. Shattered bodies at the front; stunted bodies on the home front – both, to varying extents and varying audiences at varying times, seemed a necessary price to pay for the preservation of national space (however “national space” was defined). Still, the tension between “body” and “soil” was ubiquitous.
This question is of particular interest for the study of the First World War. Obviously, all wars are ultimately fought over space; and, in all wars, the human body is the ultimate theatre. But training the body-and-soil perspective on First World War Europe is particularly rewarding for two reasons. First, this war stood at an apex of national imagining. The idea of the national bolstered mass mobilization to an unprecedented degree, and the link between “nation” and “territory” seemed more self-evident than it had ever been, swaying opinions even in imperial borderlands. The war mapped out belligerent Europe into, first, “fronts”; second, those spaces which the fronts defended (l’arrière, die Heimat, Blighty, vatan, otechestvo); and, third, invaded spaces - to be either liberated or held onto, depending on perspective. Second, this war wreaked unprecedented havoc on the human body precisely at a time when knowledge of the human body had reached a peak. To give just three examples: the term “vitamin” was coined in 1912; soon after, general staffs calculated the impact of withholding nutrients from enemy populations. The years before the war saw breakthroughs in orthopedic surgery and in neuroscience – fields soon to be sorely challenged.
In the First World War, then, the tension between “body” and “soil” was particularly acute. In addressing this central idea, speakers, commentators, and discussants are free to range very widely across subjects - tactical planning; medical discourse; war graves; internment camps; economic blockade; aerial bombing of civilian targets; military occupation; time-horizons; the visual arts; literature... - and, of course, across regions and theatres.
The conference will take place at the University of Kent, Canterbury campus (Darwin Board Room). It starts on Thursday, May 4, at 2 p.m., and ends in the late afternoon of May 5. Papers will be pre-circulated and commented upon by University of Kent and other scholars.
Speakers are asked to please upload their papers onto the conference Dropbox by March 27, 2017. Papers should be some 7,000 words long, references and bibliography included.
Papers are pre-circulated at the conference Dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/eq3h9au0sq39vpn/AACx7ZfmvFEY-sSqdcXexxpBa?dl=0
4 May 2017 (Darwin Board Room)
14.00 registration and tea/coffee
14.25 welcoming remarks
14.30 Keynote lecture
“Continent, Core, Coast: on the Geopolitics of the First World War”
(Hew Strachan, University of St. Andrews)
Chair: Juliette Pattinson (University of Kent)
15.30 Short break
15.45 Panel 1: The Royal Body
Chair and commentator: Annika Mombauer (Open University)
“Wartime violence and the royal body” (Heather Jones, London School of Economics)
“'This painful sacrifice': Princess Beatrice of Battenberg and the burial of a royal body” (Mark Connelly, University of Kent)
16.45 Break with tea/coffee
17.15 Panel 2: (Danger) Zones
Chair and commentator: Claire Jones (University of Kent)
“Cartographies of Pain and Relief: Bodies, Maps and Medical Logistics in the First World War” (Ana Carden-Coyne, University of Manchester)
“Mapping the war: A Comparison between the French and the German Medical Profession” (Susanne Michl, University of Mainz)
“The scent of distance, the touch of sound: Body-space, scale, and the senses in the First World War” (Nicholas Saunders, University of Bristol)
18.45 End of Day 1 – wine reception
19.30 Conference dinner for speakers and chairs/commentators at The Beagle restaurant
5 May 2017 (Darwin Board Room)
9.30 registration and tea/coffee
10.00 Panel 3: Silences
Chair and commentator: Emma Hanna (University of Kent)
“Nursing the Enemy Body” (Alison Fell, University of Leeds)
“‘Left unsaid in the history books’: seeking the truth about hand to hand killing in the First World War” (Paul Cornish, Imperial War Museum)
11.00 Break with tea/coffee
11.30 Panel 4: Invasions and Bodily Integrity
Chair and commentator: Stefan Goebel (University of Kent)
“The Nationalization of the Masses in World War I Figurations and strategies of incorporation and embodiment in the German public” (Sebastian Bischoff, University of Paderborn)
“Wounded Towns and Wounded Civilians in First World War France” (Alex Dowdall, University of Manchester)
14.00 Panel 5: Bodily Legacies
Chair and commentator: Mark Connelly (University of Kent)
“The Able-Bodied Gaze: Regarding Disabled Veterans in Britain” (Julie Anderson, University of Kent)
"The Tombs of the Unknown Soldier: War remembrance and the national body" (Christoph Mick, University of Warwick)
15.00 Break with tea/coffee
15.30 Closing remarks (Sophie De Schaepdrijver, Kent/Penn State) and general discussion
Chair: Mario Draper (University of Kent)
16.30 Conference ends.
Professor Sir Hew Strachan (All Souls College Oxford / University of Saint Andrews):
“Continent, Core, Coast: on the Geopolitics of the First World War.”
Dr Julie Anderson (University of Kent): “The Able-Bodied Gaze: Regarding Disabled Veterans in Britain.”
This paper explores the multifaceted ways that disabled veterans altered the social and cultural landscape through the eyes of the public during and after the First World War. Thousands of servicemen suffered life-changing injuries, and their numbers created a separate group of disabled people after the war. The British public wanted heroes; to see veterans worthy of the respect their war service afforded them. Yet disabled veterans challenged the way the public saw them, although efforts were made in the press to show disabled veterans in a positive light. Disabled servicemen made a lot of effort to hide their disabilities, to not be observed, and others were prevented by the authorities from being seen by the public. Some disabled servicemen’s visage was challenging, and their behaviour difficult to witness. They occupied the physical landscape, particularly in large towns and cities in places where they should not be seen, begging on the street, wandering purposelessly wearing ragged clothes, or door-to-door selling, wearing hand written signs around their necks which read ‘shellshocked’. Members of the public ignored these men, as their presence was discomfiting and challenged the image of the disabled veteran desired by the public imagination. By investigating the way that disabled veterans were seen, conceptualised and interpreted by their able-bodied contemporaries, the paper will reveal the juxtaposition of the reasons behind what was seen and what was ignored.
Dr Sebastian Bischoff (University of Paderborn): “Annexation as embodiment?”
In WWI, large parts of the German public had developed ideas of annexing Belgium, or at least keeping it under tight German control, as a result of propagandistic images of Belgium and the Belgians. The discourse of annexation was also taking place in the arena of gender. While the Entente propaganda built up the image of a “Rape of Belgium“ through a female embodiment of the nation, the German public also embodied Belgium as a woman that could be captured in a heroic fight. But why did some authors employ these images while others did not, and in how far does a theory of embodiment actually contribute to explaining collective imaginations?
Dr Ana Carden-Coyne (University of Manchester): “Cartographies of Pain and Relief: Bodies, Maps and Medical Logistics in the First World War.”
The structuring of medical units in spatial zones covering the battlefield, the forward areas and rear lines, was critical for the experiences of the wounded and the medical staff entrusted with treating the wounded. The Royal Army Medical Corps divided geography, medical labour, resources and facilities, and infrastructure into three spatial zones that encompassed infrastructure and movement, as well as human, material and technological resources. The zonal system was shaped as a narrowing triangular formation, and inscribed upon evacuation maps of the period. The supply of personnel and the need for greater organisation of medical evacuation and expanding surgical facilities was a necessary response to rapid increases in casualties. After the war, the official histories emphasised efficiency and adaptation as the hallmark of the system. In 1922, the RAMC was claimed to have had ‘perfectly organized’ units that ‘went without a moment’s delay’, growing into a ‘great world life-saving army’. Such reflections retrospectively reshaped the fact that the RAMC could not possibly meet ‘all the medical needs’ of the war, as was understood at the time by medical officers and surgeons.
This paper examines the infrastructure of military medicine as spatial and technological experiences, comparing maps, experiences and observations. The experience of those who carried the wounded men, the stretcher-bearers, and other medical staff, are important aspects of spatial and social relations that are not evident in the cartographies of relief and evacuation. From these multiple perspectives, this paper compares the intentions of medical logistics with the complex, chaotic and intense environment of war. The provision of systems and infrastructure represented a comprehensive effort to control the volatile spaces of the medical war zone. To be sure, military medical logistics was bound to spatial organisation with the ultimate aim of managing resources and maintaining fighting power. Yet, the conditions of this war in tandem with the complexities of social factors, or human agents responding to the spaces, pushed against the bureaucratic logic of containment.
Professor Mark Connelly (University of Kent): “'This painful sacrifice': Princess Beatrice of Battenberg and the burial of a royal body.”
Prince Maurice of Battenberg was the only direct member of the British Royal Family to be killed in the Great War. He was buried in the main city cemetery of Ypres in October 1914. His mother appealed for the right to repatriate his body, which she followed up with a concerted campaign to erect a headstone of her choice over his grave. These demands coming from such an influential person made Prince Maurice’s body, and the memory of him as a person, a test case for the authority of the newly-forged Imperial War Graves Commission. Determined to uphold the principles of non-repatriation and equality of treatment, the IWGC had to fight a delicate battle in which an individual’s body was subsumed into wider arguments about class, identity and the very meaning of the war itself.
Paul Cornish (Imperial War Museum): “‘Left unsaid in the history books’: seeking the truth about hand to hand killing in the First World War.”
Killing with a knife or dagger is the most fundamental invasion of the body imaginable. In the First World War weapons of this type were issued on an astonishing scale, yet actual evidence of their use is hard to find. This paper explores this paradox, and the cross-disciplinary means by which it might be investigated.
Dr Alex Dowdall (Manchester): “Wounded Towns and Wounded Civilians in First World War France.”
Images of wounded towns were ever-present in First World War France, with the ‘villes martyres’, including Reims, Arras and Soissons, proliferating in postcards and the illustrated press. The ruined landscapes of these front-line towns became yet another embodiment of German barbarism. But what of their inhabitants – the civilians who remained under fire near the front lines for much of the war? They also featured in the public discourse of wartime, but most often as stylised figures, heroically resisting the German onslaught. The reality that these civilians, like the soldiers in the trenches, were exposed horrific forms of wounding featured more rarely. Yet, through diaries, memoires, letters and the local press, we can reach some level of understanding of the physical impact of the war on the bodies and minds of civilians near the front.
Professor Alison Fell (Leeds): “Nursing the Enemy Body.”
This paper will examine the tensions at play in nurses’ attitudes towards the enemy body. On the one hand, the enemy patient’s body was seen as ‘neutral’ territory, in line with the transnational and impartial humanitarianism embodied, for example, in the Red Cross. On the other, nurses who saw their role as a female equivalent of male military service tended to view the nursing of enemy patients as incompatible with their patriotic duty and therefore as less deserving – or even as undeserving - of their care.
Dr Heather Jones (London School of Economics): “The Royal Body at War: How the British and Belgian monarchies responded to the violence of the First World War.”
How did monarchies adjust to the development of ‘total war’ in 1914-1918? This paper will explore one aspect of this question, looking at how the image of the ‘royal body’ at war changed during the conflict. In 1914, both the Belgian and the British monarchies struggled to adapt to wartime. Both constitutional monarchies, neither was sure of public expectations of a modern monarchy at war, both were shocked at the collapse of Europe’s monarchy kinship network (what Johannes Paulman has called a ‘Royal International’) and both struggled to discern and offer appropriate forms of royal military leadership. How the traditional medieval idea of the King’s warrior body was reinvented for the First World War will be the focus of this paper.
Dr Susanne Michl (University of Mainz): “Mapping the war: A Comparison between the French and the German Medical Profession.”
The paper aims to explore the tension between „body“ and „soil“ in a comparative and to some extent transfer-oriented approach between the German and French medical profession. I am interested in how German and French doctors turned the military spatial map which distinguished between the male-dominated front, the female dominated home front and the invaded territories into an epidemiological map. Two cases studies – the rapid spread of venereal diseases and psychiatric disorders – show that the two professions identified different danger zones wich arose from points of contacts between men and women.
Professor Christoph Mick (University of Warwick): „The Tombs of the Unknown Soldier: War remembrance and the national body.“
The building of central Tombs of the Unknown Soldier started after the First World War but has now become a global phenomenon. In the inter-war period the discourses on the Unknown Soldier reflect the divisions of national societies and show to what extent giving meaning to war was successful or demonstrate – as in the cases of Germany and Austria – the inability to find a consensus about the war. The paper will be analysing the connection between nationalism, the national ‘body’ and war remembrance. I am especially interested in performances or discourses which subverted the dominant narrative.
Professor Nicholas J Saunders (University of Bristol): “’Full metal jacket?’: Body-space, scale, and the senses in the First World War.”
The First World War reconfigured the human experience of space, in the conflicted mind as well as in the contested physical world. From inches to miles, horizontal to vertical, from crawling over landscapes to death at the speed of sound – the effect on men’s bodies was a dizzying rush of sensorial overload, a renegotiation of the terms of being in the world. This paper is an anthropological exploration of these issues.
RN Armoured Car Squadron: Transport of Wounded on the Turkish Front
By: Jan Gordon, oil painting, Jan Gordon (1882-1944), author of A Balkan Freebooter, 1916
Imperial War Museum, Royal Naval Medical Section.
Art.IWM ART 4003