The Human Body and World War II

University of Oxford, 23-24 March 2018

About the Conference

The Human Body and World War II is a two-day conference, scheduled to take place at the University of Oxford from 23-24 March 2018.

The conference is interdisciplinary and international in character. We aim to bring together researchers from around the world working in the humanities, medical sciences and modern languages, with a view to engendering a deeper understanding of the impact of the Second World War on the perception and representation of the human body. The conference promises to illuminate how the body was affected on the battlefield and in the home, and will consider the wartime body in both its historical context and via the conflict’s lasting influence on approaches to the human body in the humanities and medical sciences today.

Call for Papers

War, Elaine Scarry claims, is “the most radically embodying event in which human beings ever collectively participate.” This two-day interdisciplinary conference aims to explore the kinds of bodies that were enlisted, co-opted and represented during the Second World War, on both the battlefield and the various “home fronts.” How did the damage done to the wartime body affect the medical establishment and its practice? In what ways were amputation and prostheses taken up by the culture industry? How did language shape, accommodate, or erase the body during this period? What new relationships were formed between human bodies and machines? We welcome papers that seek to challenge disciplinary and geographic boundaries, and we are particularly receptive to proposals situated within a disability studies framework.

Topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Medical and psychiatric responses to the wartime body
  • The body, language and translation
  • Bodies in art, performance, or literature
  • Technology, architecture, and damaged bodies
  • Social attitudes to bodies during and following the war
  • Bodily power, control and punishment
  • Bodies and machines
  • Wartime propaganda and the body
  • Nationhood and the body: the Aryan ideal; the kamikaze pilot
  • Wartime sexuality

Please send anonymised abstracts of no more than 300 words for a 20 minute paper to by 1 October 2017. A limited number of travel bursaries will be offered to graduate speakers.

For more information, please visit the conference website.

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