War and Culture

Warfare and its representations constitute a fixture of human civilization and history. From the Ancient Egyptian conflicts, the religious crusades of the Modern Age, the social and national revolutions of eighteenth- and nineteenth century, the American Civil War, the World Wars, the Vietnam War to the current conflicts in Syria, wars are ever present within the history of human kind. Why is war such an intrinsic marker of civilization? What are the anthropological conditions of human aggression? And how does war reconfigure the basic categories through which we understand the world?

In our research group we approach these questions from a cultural perspective. Increasingly, scholars are beginning to realize that in order to reach a deeper understanding of the dynamics of war as well as its causes and effects, we need to analyze the representation of warfare in cultural, aesthetic, medial, theoretical, and political discourses. Instead of discussing war exclusively as an issue of governance and law, we examine the phenomenon of war from the humanities’ perspective. The research group therefore concentrates on the ways in which various literary and cultural media have shaped our conception of war just as much as war has shaped our culture.

The basic premise that underlies our line of inquiry is this: war is not simply an event, be it of the past, the present, or the future. Rather, war is a matrix or a prism that has refracted our view of the world and shaped our culture for thousands of years. Our research group seeks, from a variety of different but complementary angles, to answer the basic question: what does the prism of war look like? Only with the literary, cultural, historical, and theoretical perspectives that such a question evokes will it be possible to gain a deeper understanding of the true impact and meaning of war – an understanding that ought to inform any political discussion of governance.

The War and Culture research group is based at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) in Odense, Denmark. It is organized by Kathrin Maurer and Anders Engberg-Pedersen.

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