How do war stories work? And what do they do to us? These questions are central to the work of many WAM members so the Visualising War Project hope that you will be interested in their new podcast which is launching to explore these questions and more.
Led by Drs Alice König and Nicolas Wiater, Visualising War is an interdisciplinary research project based at the University of St Andrews (https://arts.st-andrews.ac.uk/visualising-war/). It looks at how war gets represented in art, text, drama, music and many other kinds of storytelling. Exploring material from the ancient world to the present day, we unpick representations of many different kinds of conflict from all sorts of periods and places. We are particularly interested in the ways in which narratives of war have influenced each other across time and space, canonising recurring ideas about (e.g.) masculinity, self-sacrifice, leadership and nationhood. Above all, we examine the ‘feedback loop’ between narrative and reality; that is, how the war stories we tell not only reflect past events but also influence us as individuals and shape the societies we live in.
Our podcast series is just one of several new strands we are developing to broaden our study and bring more people into the conversation. Each week, we will be interviewing a different guest, asking about narratives of war that have influenced them and their own habits of representing, imagining or visualising conflict. Our interviewees include war reporters, photojournalists, artists, video-game designers, museum curators and theatre, film and documentary makers – people who make complex decisions about how to represent war to others. We also talk to peace campaigners, NGOs and clinical psychologists, to find out how storytelling impacts their work with victims of conflict. And we interview serving soldiers, veterans, defence trainers and strategists, to find out what narratives of war flourish in their respective worlds and what influence they have. We have a range of academics amongst our guests too: experts in ancient war poetry, medieval religion, the ‘just war’ tradition, trends in memorialisation, militarism in popular culture, the history of grand strategy-making, the psychology of collective action, and processes of identify formation – among many other topics!
We are excited about bringing practitioners and academics into dialogue because our study of how war stories work and what they do to us has important real-world applications. In studying past and present war stories, we aim to increase awareness of the powerful ideologies which they generate over time, which influence people directly but can also be purposefully leveraged by those in positions of social or political power. Ultimately, we want to create a space for different people to come together to reflect on how representations of war can change the ways in which we understand and conduct it – and perhaps even help prevent or mitigate future conflict.
We hope that our podcast will be of interest to all sorts of people: to anyone who has ever been moved or fascinated or horrified or excited by a war story and wants to understand why – and also to people with direct experience of conflict or people involved in explaining or representing or visualising it for others. We hope particularly that it will be of interest to many of you on the War-NET email list – and as we develop the podcast series, we hope to draw more on the expertise in this group. So please do get in touch with us if you are interested in our project.
You can listen to the podcast here https://visualisingwar.buzzsprout.com and also on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and many other streaming platforms. If you enjoy what your hear, please leave us a review and tell others about it – and if you want to join the conversation, you can follow us on social media via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!