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War and Emotions

4096Px Sargent John Singer RA Gassed Google Art Project

Monday 17 August 2015
Time: 10–6pm
Venue: Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, The University of Western Australia
Contact: pam.bond@uwa.edu.au

Registrations essential for catering and venue purposes.  Morning and afternoon tea will be provided but participants will be responsible for providing their own lunch.

Register here on Eventbrite.

Presented by a collaboration of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions and UWA groups including the Centre for WA History, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, Institute of Advanced Studies and the History Discipline Group, as part of ‘UWAugust: Australians and War’, The University of Western Australia’s ANZAC Centenary commemorations coordinated by the Cultural Precinct through its WINTERarts program.

A one-day symposium exploring current research into emotions relating to war, various aspects of World War 1 and the ANZAC legend, and the experience of Australian soldiers returning from war. This will form the intellectual hub of ‘UWAugust: Australians and War’ program.

The symposium will include a Round Table discussion on ‘What the Great War has meant for Australia – then and now’, chaired by Professor Jenny Gregory (UWA). Other participants include Professor Louise D’Arcens (Wollongong), Dr Megan Cassidy-Welch (Monash) and professors Mark Edele, Jane Lydon, Andrew Lynch and Bob White (UWA). 

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Download event programme


Beyond the Vanilla Frontier: Images of Colonial Violence

Jane Lydon

Australian debates about how to remember war are characterised by a national forgetfulness about frontier violence at the same that we have emblazoned the phrase ‘Lest We Forget’ on monuments throughout the land. This on-going paradox is grounded in part in our present day inability to acknowledge frontier conflict as real war, and the Aboriginal fighters as equal opponents. Our historical narratives play an important role in generating feelings of pride, sorrow or shame about our history and our identity that are profoundly politicised. In this paper I examine images of frontier violence and the ways they sought to constitute specific figures as objects of our compassion – as well as the limits of these strategies. Representing violence against Aboriginal people as atrocity required their constitution as passive beneficiaries of white compassion, and transformed scenes of violence and exploitation into occasions for benevolence. The moral ambivalence of participants in these encounters was transformed over following decades into a colonial triumphalism that celebrated pioneer achievement. The anger and fear felt by white colonists was politicised and channeled into opposition to ‘Exeter Hall’ attempts to promote humanitarianism. Settlers’ desire to forget or deny their own fear – as part of a process of constructing a proud national trajectory of progress – but also in ways bound up with settler assertions of masculinity - has erased these elements from popular memory. Images help us recover the dread of Aboriginal violence of these early years, defining the limits of empathy, and its demand that objects of our compassion remain less than equal to ourselves.

Resulting Publication

Gregory, J. and B. Oliver (eds). 'War and Emotions', special issue, Studies in Western Australian History 32 (2018).

Image: Gassed, 1918, John Singer Sargent [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.