Research Round-table: Reconstructing the Historical Subject

We’re delighted to be hosting a round-table on Wednesday 22 February 2017, in Muirhead Tower Room 112, from 4-6pm. Around the theme ‘Reconstructing the Historical Subject’ Dr. Adam Dighton, Dr. Marta Filipová, Dr. Ben Mechen and Dr. Zoë Thomas will discuss their current research. Prof. Matt Houlbrook will chair.

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All welcome! Contact: Dr. Simon Jackson, S.Jackson.1@bham.ac.uk

Abstracts:

Dr. Adam Dighton: Military History at the British Army’s Staff College, 1885-1914.

The study of military history formed an important part of the syllabus used to train high ranking officers at the army’s Staff College during the latter half of the ‘long nineteenth century’. During the period between 1885 and 1914 the justification for teaching this subject underwent a fundamental transformation. This was caused by a change in the perceived didactic function of history during this time. It is the aim of this paper to examine why this change took place and how it affected the way in which history was taught at this institution.

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Dr. Marta Filipova: The people or the proletariat? Class appropriation in interwar Czechoslovak culture.

The paper examines the attention to the working classes in the visual arts and literature in Czechoslovakia after 1918. I look at the different interpretations of proletarian art on the background of the emergence of the new political entity, negotiations of modernity by artists and art critics, and their attempts for renewal of art. I therefore address the questions of identity, belonging and construction of artistic narratives.

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Dr. Ben Mechen: ‘A positive advance of our standard of civilisation’ – consuming and defending pornography in postwar Britain.

This paper will outline my postdoctoral project exploring the cultural politics of pornography in postwar Britain. In particular, I will seek to locate the pornographic consumer within this history, a problematic figure – like those who laboured to produce explicit imagery – usually absent from existing work. Drawing upon letters sent by buyers of pornography – men and women, straight and gay -to a late 1970s inquiry into obscenity, I will ask: how were sexual subjectivities formed in the age of pornographic reproduction?

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Dr. Zoë Thomas: Historical pageants, citizenship, and the performance of women’s history before second-wave feminism.

This paper argues that the early twentieth-century craze for historical pageants provided an opportunity for women’s groups to bring a nascent, popular form of women’s history into the lives of local communities across Britain. Prior to second-wave feminism, when scholars advanced the study of women within the academy, thousands of people had been invested in re-enacting women’s history since the inter-war years. Emphasizing the bravery and public duties of women in the past, pageants also provided a non-controversial format through which women’s groups could effectively project their beliefs about the role they felt women should play as newly enfranchised citizens.

*Image Credits, from top-left, clockwise: Officers reading military history in the Prince Consort’s Library in the army camp at Aldershot; Pravoslav Kotík, Accordion player, 1923; Women’s Institute outdoor pageant in 1927; Walker’s Court in Soho. All images courtesy the speakers.

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