Enemy Encounters: Online Conference

19th-20th July 2021

Hosted by the IWM Institute for the Public Understanding of War and Conflict and the Cardiff University AHRC funded project ‘Strange Meetings: Enemy Encounters 1800-2020’, this event seeks to explore views of enmity and allegiance in modern warfare. The conference focuses on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries but we also welcome pro-posals relating to the nineteenth century which look forward to that era. We are interested in a broad, interdisciplinary range of approaches to experiences and representations of the enemy, with a particular focus on how the ‘other’ side is presented in museums, in first person writings, journalism, literature, art, performance, film and photography. 

While the 1914 Christmas truces have a mythological status in British culture, fraternisa-tion between outposts and during ceasefires was a familiar component of 19th-century warfare in which opposing sides regularly found more commonality than otherness. This conference seeks to explore that history and to consider how far fellow feeling for enemy soldiers and civilians persists in differently structured wars, such as counterinsurgency operations. It looks at how feeling for the enemy is shaped by competing ideals of na-tionalism, patriotism and cosmopolitanism, and at limits to recognitions that “they are just like us” structured by nationality, race, religion and class. We also seek to scrutinise asymmetries of power in enemy encounters, including by gender, sexuality, economic security or precarity. 

The boundary between an enemy and an ally has always been a shifting one, as alle-giances change, and the debate continues about whether civilians as well as military personnel and irregulars can be considered as enemies. In our current moment concepts and non-human entities – ‘terror’, ‘drugs’, ‘virus’ – are postulated as enemies in place of other populations. Given the difficulty of identifying enemies in many current theatres of war, and the movement of individuals and populations between positions of enemy and ally, how valid now is the concept of an enemy? How do first person and creative re-sponses help to reframe understandings of the enemy, past and present? What happens when we bring ideas about the enemy from different sides into dialogue?

Topics and approaches might include but are not limited to:

  • Curating the enemy: representing the enemy in museums, and in community and co-produced responses
  • The enemy in life writing, journalism, literature, art, performance, film, photography
  • Material traces: objects plundered, gifted, exchanged
  • Emotional responses to the enemy: fellow feeling, admiration, compassion or pity versus anger, resentment, fear
  • Differences between propaganda and experience; strategies of denigration and dehumanisation
  • Truces and fraternisation
  • Medical cross-sides encounters, and exchanges/appreciation of technology and expertise.
  • The status and treatment of prisoners of war; prisoners’ interactions with their captors, guards and civilians
  • Irregular combatants, insurgents, terrorists, resistance and freedom fighters
  • Officially sanctioned and unacceptable encounters, or safe and dangerous forms of fraternisation
  • Gender and fraternisation 
  • Intimate encounters, and sexual and gender violence
  • Relations between occupying forces and local populations
  • Reconciliation, repatriation
  • Healing, justice and international law

We welcome presenters of all backgrounds. The conference will take the format of short 10 minute papers in panels with time for lots of discussion. Please send short abstracts (250 words) for individual papers or panels to the convenors, Holly Furneaux and Matilda Greig, at, by 10 May 2021. Please also feel free to contact us with any further questions, by email or through our Twitter page, @EnemyEncounters.