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Mobilising Militant Pasts - CFP

Mobilising Militant Pasts: Histories of Protest, Unrest and Insurrection in Politics and Culture
King’s College London
31 August – 1 September 2017
Call for Papers

The extent of retrospection in culture and politics is a topic oft-commented upon and lamented. Public engagements with history and heritage are frequently lumpenly categorised as ‘nostalgia’: sanitised, selective, reassuring. Yet this obscures the sheer diversity of militant pasts in the present, and of the contexts and processes that facilitate their re-manifestation. Che Guevara’s face adorns posters and t-shirts worldwide, while Garibaldi gets dunked in tea. Historic campaigns for racial and gender equality have been regularly dramatized, including in the recent films Selma (2014) and Suffragette (2015). Internecine violence is frequently documented, and its martyrs commemorated, in the fabric of the physical environments where it occurred, as the murals of Belfast and Derry testify. Such remembering and half-remembering of histories of divided societies, of protest, unrest and insurrection, is far from inherently safe, nor easily categorised.

This conference seeks to thrust treatments and legacies of the militant past into the academic spotlight. We seek papers on retrospective representations of themes including (but not limited to):

  • Industrial action
  • Campaigns for women’s rights
  • Campaigns for gay rights
  • Campaigns for religious tolerance and freedom
  • Campaigns for racial and ethnic equality
  • Intercommunal violence
  • Protests, riots and revolutions

There exists a vast array of models available for unpicking our individual and social relationships with the past: Freud’s conception of repeating, remembering and working through; Baudrillard’s of collecting and of retro; de Certeau’s of memory and place; Hobsbawm’s of invented tradition; Boym’s of restorative and reflective strains of nostalgia. Following on from these examples, we seek papers that address the role of format-specific and contextual dynamics and accompanying motivations in shaping the way militant pasts are represented and used. When and where are different modes of representation and appropriation – such as the reproduction of imagery and motifs, re-narration, preservation of heritage, adaptation, re-enactment, anniversaries, remembrance and commemoration – employed? How are these shaped by the contexts in which they appear, whether in popular cultural forms, high politics, heritage sectors, social movements, educational institutions, biographies and autobiographies, or the internet? What purposes do they serve: nostalgia; entertainment; commodification; education; calls to action; warning or pacifying gestures? How have these narratives, images and artefacts diffuse across time and space, and across formats and forums? How have their meanings contested, and by whom?

We welcome proposals for twenty-minute presentations from all disciplines and concerned with any time-period, including those with a contemporary focus. Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words, along with a short CV, to conference organisers Ruth Adams, Dion Georgiou and Andrew Smith at militantpasts@gmail.com by 31 May 2017.

© 2017

SSLH Membership

Labour History Review

SSLH members get various membership benefits and play an essential part in the Society’s activities.

For over fifty years the Society for the Study of Labour History has been an important connection between labour historians (professional and amateur), an active promoter of Archive preservation and creator of new perspectives and resources.

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