Conference Program


85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky


Title: Cultural Landscapes of War: Commemorating the First World War in Africa, America, and Australia
Abstract: The rituals and practices that emerged to celebrate and memorialize the First World War shaped not only the physical, but also the cultural landscape of many belligerent nations. Commemorating this conflict was often a highly politicized activity and those aspects of the war which were remembered?and indeed those that were forgotten?profoundly influenced national narratives of the conflict. This panel affords a fresh and exciting examination of the commemoration of the First World War by comparing the various ways in which the war was remembered in Africa, America, and Australia.

Each paper highlights the complexities involved in the process of remembering the war and the politics at play in each national context. Tim Clarke explores the racialization evident in the Colonial Administration's placement of the Native War Memorial, and the rhetoric surrounding its unveiling in 1920s Mombasa. Jennifer Zoebelein explains how and why the D.C. War Memorial is the only District memorial situated on the National Mall, illustrating how plans for the Mall shaped the memorial's design and placement. Margaret Hutchison examines Australia's official war art scheme as a key commemorative practice of the First World War, focusing on how artists represented the war for audiences at home.

The centenary of the First World War has sparked a rethinking of the ways in which the conflict has been, and continues to be, remembered. In exploring the tension inherent in the commemoration of the war in Africa, America, and Australia, this panel addresses significant issues such as how and by whom memories of the war were constructed, and provides new insights into the debate on the politics of war remembrance.
 
Jennifer Zoebelein, Kansas State University
Participant's Paper Title: "A Band Stand for Potomac Park": The D.C. War Memorial and the Cultural Landscape of the National Mall
Participant's Paper Abstract: War occupies an important place in the collective memory of the United States, with many of its defining moments centered on times of intense trauma. Until recently, American memory of World War I paled in comparison to the Civil War and World War II, despite the presence of memorials that act as a visible reminder of American participation in the Great War. One such memorial, situated between the National World War II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial, is the District of Columbia War Memorial. Designed by famed District architect Frederick Brooke and dedicated by President Herbert Hoover in 1931, the memorial effectively speaks to the artistic diversity of postwar remembrance in the United States. Built to resemble a classic Doric temple, the structure also maintains functionality through its use as a bandstand, thus supporting the idea that traditionalism and modernism co-existed in the interwar period.

What is most striking about the D.C. War Memorial, however, is its location. Despite the "memorial mania" of the last several decades, it remains the only war memorial in West Potomac Park and the only District memorial on the National Mall. This paper will explain how and why this occurred, considering both the importance of placement regarding memorial construction as well as the early history of the National Mall itself. I argue that a strong sense of civic pride drove District residents and the memorial's commission members in their choice of location for the D.C. War Memorial. They were aided by the Commission of Fine Arts, who sought to implement plans laid out in the 1902 Senate Park Commission. In this unique way, the collective memory of the D.C. memorial is linked to the development of the National Mall, with artistic design and structural placement taking on greater importance than in other urban centers.
Timothy Clarke, University of Waterloo
Participant's Paper Title: "This Maniacal Insistence": The Mombasa Native War Memorial and Whiteness in Kenya, 1925-1931
Participant's Paper Abstract: The East African Campaign of the First World War has often been described as a 'forgotten front' or a 'side show' to the Western Front. But for Kenyans?white settlers, Indian settlers, and Africans alike?the East Africa Campaign had tangible effects that lingered until another global conflict visited the continent. Memorialisation, for instance, became intimately connected with the politics of colonisation, especially in light of the Mandate system established by the Treaty of Versailles. The primacy of Native African rights over that of Indians and white settlers, crystallised in the 1923 Devonshire White Paper, led to over a decade of disputes centred on race and political power, with major cities like Nairobi and Mombasa the ideological battleground. In this context, the Native War Memorials in those cities?erected in 1926 and 1928 respectively?presented opportunities to shape the contours of Kenya's interwar public spaces.

In Mombasa, as a bustling hub at the coast end of the Uganda Railway, public spaces operated at the intersection of a powerful Indian merchant community, influential Arab trading enclaves, a substantial centre of transient African workers, and the second largest colonial administrative core in the Colony. As such, the Colonial Administration served as mediator between the varied interests of each community, while also abiding by the dictates of the Colonial Office in Britain. This manifested in a concerted effort to racialize Native War Memorials, reasserting white dominance over and responsibility for the Native African community, while omitting the role of Indians and Arabs. I argue that this racialization is visible in both the placement of the monument and the rhetoric surrounding its unveiling in 1926. Ultimately, as the Colonial Administration took responsibility for the monument from the Imperial War Graves Commission, the politics of memory contributed to an idiosyncratic formation of Whiteness in Kenya.
William Allison, Georgia Southern University
Roger Lee, Australian War Memorial
Steve Marti, Independent Scholar
Participant's Paper Title: "Suitable to the Climate of Australia": The Slouch Hat and the Environment in Australian Commemorations of the First World War
Participant's Paper Abstract: Australian scholars are now familiar with the tropes of the Anzac Legend. This narrative of the First World War describes the realization of an Australian masculine identity, whose characteristics were forged on the Australian frontier and validated through the ordeal of battle. Though many writers contributed to this narrative, C.E.W. Bean, the official historian of the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War, is most closely associated with the popularization of this myth that fused frontier and martial masculinity into a national archetype. This myth is, at its core, a narrative of environmental determinism, rooted in the Australian landscape.
This paper will examine the role of the slouch hat as a material and visual trope in Australian narratives of the First World War. With its broad brim and high pinched crown, the slouch hat provided excellent protection in arid theatres, such as the Gallipoli Peninsula and Palestine. This functional design also called back to the arid environment of Australia and distinguished Australian soldiers from other contingents of the British empire. This paper will demonstrate how Australian visual narratives of the First World War were revised to feature the slouch hat, in order to argue that the slouch hat provided an essential visual device to communicate the environmental narrative of the Anzac Legend. The slouch hat became a prominent symbol in Australian official war art and in the exhibits of the Australian War Memorial, which supported the narrative of Australian martial masculinity. The appearance of the slouch hat in memorials and cenotaphs in France, Belgium, and throughout Australia ultimately plant this environmental narrative back into the landscape.