21 July 2009

A four-day conference being held at UQ this week is exploring the various representations of violence and conflict.

Running from July 20-23, Cultures of Violence and Conflict: The Second Conference of the International Society for Cultural History has brought together international researchers to discuss topics such as the links between national “body types” and racial intolerance, and the prominence of sexual violence in war crimes.

Conference convenor and President of the ISCH Associate Professor Chris Dixon, along with colleague Jason Jacobs, won a bid for the conference in Belgium in 2008 and has brought it to UQ to showcase a truly international perspective on violence and conflict.

“Violence permeates so many corners of life, public and private,” Dr Dixon said.

“Historians long focused on war as the principal site of conflict, but modern scholars are also interested in manifestations of violence in a range of contexts, including sexual and racial violence, and the ways in which conflict is represented in various cultural forms.

“This conference draws together geographically diverse theorists across Australasia and the world, to extend our understandings of these topics.”

As well as the obvious sites of conflict and violence, such as battlefields, Cultures of Violence and Conflict includes papers discussing the manifestations and representations of violence and conflict across a variety of cultural sites, including museums, film, parenting, tourism, ancient festivals, symphonic music, foreign policy and the sites of Ground Zero and New Orleans.

Dr Prue Ahrens, a UQ academic and member of the conference’s organising committee, has created a photographic exhibition entitled Tour of Paradise: An American Soldier in the South Pacific, which links “everyday” images of the Pacific War to some of the themes to be explored at the conference.

“It presents another view of the war presence, by using photographs taken by ‘ordinary’ servicemen, rather than the military’s ‘official’ photographers,” she said.

“Officers would take their pictures with brown-box cameras and develop them in makeshift labs.”

Keynote speakers include Professor Joanna Bourke from Birkbeck College, UK, Associate Professor Alice Yang of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Dr Alastair Blanshard from the University of Sydney.

Cultures of Violence and Conflict is hosted by UQ’s Cultural History Project, an initiative which brings together academics from the Faculty of Arts who practice cultural history in its various forms.

“Hosting the Conference here at UQ has enabled the ISCH to become a more inclusive, internationally focused organisation, which takes account of the important research being conducted in the Asia Pacific region, including here at the University of Queensland,” Dr Dixon said.

“The event host, The University of Queensland’s Cultural History Project, is a multidisciplinary group, which is reflected in the conference’s program. Our keynote speakers include a Historian, a Sociologist, a Literary Scholar and a Classicist.

“The blending of different disciplines provides different perspectives, and helps us better understand various forms of violence and conflict.”

A conference program is available online

Media: Associate Professor Jason Jacobs (07 3365 2960, 0408 192 268, j.jacobs@uq.edu.au) or Associate Professor Chris Dixon (07 3365 2162, 0402 222 693, c.dixon1@uq.edu.au)