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A Global History of Art in Modern Warfare

In “A Global History of Art in Modern Warfare” Professor Joanna Bourke provides a visual, cultural and historical analysis of the ways armed conflict has been represented in a range of artistic forms. Funded by the British Academy (£9,960), the project investigates a central role played by art and artists in promoting war, protesting against it, and forging visual images through which war is understood and interpreted by the public. It engages with debates about the contribution of art to the practice, memory and commemoration of war.

The project will result in a book, War and Art: A Visual History of Modern Conflict edited by Professor Bourke to be published by Reaktion Books in mid- 2017. The book explores the war-art nexus from a global perspective and in the longue durée. With contributions from a range of academic fields, it puts social historians in dialogue with art historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, and film studies scholars, bringing together different disciplines in an effort to interpret art in a broader historical context. By challenging disciplinary boundaries which have hindered intellectual exchange between different perspectives, the book will develop a more rounded understanding of this complex relationship.

We embrace a broad definition of art, including painting, etchings, photography, film, digital art, comics, graffiti, and material culture. In this sense, we abandon the common high/low culture divide. We attempt to cover all types of artistic representation of combat and behind-the-lines wartime experiences. We explore forms of war representations that are overlooked, specifically art produced by children and prisoners of war as well as representations of sexual violence and animals at war. We also counter a simplistic gender perspective that tends to equate war with male activities. Female artists and representations of gender (masculinity as well as femininity) at war are prominent components of the project.

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