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4. The Times, Traces, and Territories of War during the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

4. The Times, Traces, and Territories of War during the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

The definition of the term “war” should be rethought in light of the new forms taken by conflict in Europe and across the globe.

The originality of our approach is to jointly consider the two notions of “war” and “traces of war” in connection with the three concepts of history(ies), memory(ies), and representation(s). War is understood as a process that begins with the march to war, and continues with the war itself, its conclusion, and the process of rapprochement and reconciliation in the effort to build peace, along with their respective limits. This approach creates interdisciplinary dynamics, as joint research brings together political scientists, archeologists, ethnologists, psychoanalysts, theologians, art historians, literary specialists, writers, artists, and practitioners of war (members of the military, representatives of the arms industry, humanitarian organizations, journalists).

Our research focuses on four aspects, and is in keeping with a social, political, and cultural history of the military. It seeks to move beyond the binaries of war and peace, victor and vanquished, and perpetrator and victim in order to reflect on the liminal space between them.

4.1 Material and Immaterial Traces of War
This aspect analyzes the dynamics of how the memory of war is constructed on various scales. War is also explored in its materiality (objects, remains...), as well as its traces and memory. The different times of war are considered: the march to war, wars themselves, and the postwar period (process of reconciliation calling for a rethinking of war) in European, American, and Asian civilizations.

4.2 “Waging War!”: Conflictuality, Conflict, and the Spaces of War from the Eighteenth to the Twenty-first Century
We take a comparative and cross-cutting approach by emphasizing our research unit’s areas of strength, Russia and East-Central Europe in particular, and by also including the Americas. Operational aspects connected to war, ranging from the battlefield to the spaces of war, are studied using a military history approach. The objective is to reflect on war itself (including the “war after the war,” nineteenth-century wars such as the Crimean War, the Cold War, colonial wars, contemporary forms of war, the periphery of war) from two perspectives: “the art of war” (materiel, doctrines, fronts), as well as the involvement of states and the relation to politics.

4.2 Societies at War
Studies focus on societies at war and societies of war, during moments of mass death and renewed war violence. They also connect with a gendered perspective of both military and non-combatant society, and also consider the technical history of networks and communications in times of war. The history of mobilizations and demobilizations is used to study national cases. Particular attention is paid to the history of populations confronting the experiences of Nazism and communism, as well as that of blockades.

4.4 Writing During War, Writing About War
This aspect seeks to contribute to a “bottom-up” history of Austria-Hungary based on its written sources, favoring those dating from the conflict in order to limit the distortion effects produced by distance, as well as the limits of a rewriting that is sometimes influenced by a heroic or victimized account of the interwar period. Publications are underway. 


The Traces of War and Conflicts: Sites and Practices seminar represents a space of exchange between specialists from various disciplines and “practitioners of war.”