Culture, Trauma, and Conflict: Cultural Studies Perspectives on War

Editor: Nico Carpentier

War was pervasive in the 20th century, and the 21st century seems to hold little promise of improvement. War is still one of the world’s most destructive forces, which on a daily basis touches the lives of millions of people. To increase the understanding of the pervasiveness and destructiveness of the institution of war, all possible frameworks of knowledge must be mobilized. Cultural War Studies has an important role to play in adding to this knowledge, by putting the critical vocabulary of Cultural Studies to good use in analyzing the constructions that push us towards a glorified killing of fellow human beings and then try to make us forget the intensity and durability of the trauma. The first part of this book focuses on the diversity of the media that generate meanings and definitions of past and contemporary wars. These chapters are not restricted to the more traditional analyses of media content, but utilize these media products to reflect on contemporary cultural condition(s) in the USA and Europe. The second part of the book moves (at least partially) away from media representations and focuses on torture and incarceration. Although in this part, the materiality of war and conflict is very present, these analyses again show the importance of the constructions of enemy identities and of (the acceptability of) violent practices.The third and final part of the book is related to memory and trauma. A series of 20th century conflicts and wars are revisited to demonstrate the cultural durability of war and the interconnection of these wars with present-day discourses and practices through the dialectics of remembering, commemorating and forgetting.


Nico Carpentier is Associate Professor at the Communication Studies Department of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB – Free University of Brussels) and Lecturer at Charles University in Prague. He is a Research Fellow at Loughborough University and the Cyprus University of Technology, and is also an executive board member of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR). He served as Vice-President of the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) from 2008 to 2012.


Nico Carpentier has assembled a useful collection that applies the critical tools of cultural studies to the complex and varied media representations of interstate war and military conflict.

The value of this edited collection lies in its focus on such questions of ideology, discourse and representation in relation to war. Nico Carpentier has assembled a useful collection that applies the critical tools of cultural studies to the complex and varied media representations of interstate war and military conflict. European Journal of Communication

‘Culture, Trauma, and Conflict is a prime example of how the concepts of Cultural Studies can be successfully applied to War Studies, thus overcoming some ofCultural Studies’ and War Studies’ shortcomings. Without wanting to advocate another ‘grand theory’, this is very promising for both fields. Most of the authors—no doubt thanks to the skilful guidance of the editor—manage not to lose themselves (and readers unfamiliar with Cultural Studies jargon) in high theory and terminology. The book is recommended for anyone interested in history and actuality of war and the discursive practices surrounding it. Leen Engelen, Media & Design Academy (KHLim), Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 28, No.3, 2008

“In Culture, Trauma and Conflict,  editor Nico Carpentier provides readers with a wide-ranging series of essays directed toward understanding the role of media and culture as they are related to conflict and especially trauma.” Dr Mark Finney, Assistant Professor of Mass Communications, Adams State College in The Journal of International Communication 15:2, 2009

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Date of Publication:01/01/2015