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Conference on Occupation/Liberation: Cultural Representations of 1944-45 and its Legacy

18 December 2013

Call for papers

The Annual Conference of the Group for War and Culture Studies

10-12 September 2014

University of Bristol

Call for Papers

Whilst European nations commemorate the centenary of the First World War, we will also witness a series of commemorative events and acts across the world that, although probably smaller in scale, will seek to remind us of the seventieth anniversary of the defeat of fascism in Europe and of imperial Japan in Asia and the Pacific. In the West in particular, the events of 1944-45 are often simplified in popular historic memory, cast as the relatively unproblematic unshackling of nations from the Nazi yoke. The reality, however, was that what was, for some, liberation became, for others, occupation. The Allies’ former enemies now found themselves occupied by Allied forces and facing an uncertain future, posing a series of existential dilemmas as to the very existence of the nation in whose name war had been waged. Yet nations freed from occupation sometimes came (temporarily at least) to know a new form of ‘occupation’; this time at the hands of the liberating forces.

The occupation/liberation binary in fact disguises a range of reactions and positions before the physical presence of another on one’s national territory which, the conference organisers believe, are discernible in a broad spectrum of cultural production since the Second World War. This conference therefore seeks to tease out these tensions and ambiguities through the analysis of cultural representations of liberation and occupation produced since the events of 1944-1945. It will consider how literature, film, art, photography and other cultural media embody and reflect a range of problems with which nations grappled for many years: what should one make of, and do with, those who had welcomed the former occupier? How should the liberated think of the seemingly all-powerful liberator who had supplanted the latter, often occupying the terrain he had held? How could a nation liberated by another’s hand reassert its own selfhood and heal (or hide) the divisions prompted by occupation and liberation? Moreover, it will also consider the ways in which such cultural representations simplify the period, contributing to its mythologisation within a nation’s memory, or, conversely, complicate our understanding of it, promoting complexity but perhaps also proposing solutions to the problems posed by the passage from occupation to liberation (and vice versa).

Co-organised by the Group for War and Culture Studies and the School of Modern Languages at the University of Bristol, the conference will take place in Bristol in September 2014. The organisers are seeking proposals either for individual contributions or for themed panels. Proposals are welcome from all areas of cultural studies, including but not limited to studies of literature, visual cultures, film, photography, music, and journalism. Proposals for individual papers, which will be limited to 20 minutes, should take the form of an abstract of no more than 300 words and should be accompanied by a short CV. Proposals for panels should give the title of the panel and contain the abstracts (no more than 300 words long) of each paper (again, limited to 20 minutes for each paper) and be accompanied by the CV of the panel proposer. Each panel must consist of three papers.

All proposals should be sent to Dr Martin Hurcombe ( and Prof John Flower ( no later than the 17th January 2014.

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