2017 Conference Mobilizing Identities

Conference Overview

On a transnational basis, mobilization during the First World War was a major process of material and imaginative engagement unfolding on a military, economic, political and cultural level. Not only were mass armies, supplies and resources raised: sets of values, beliefs and representations underlying the life of national communities played a crucial role in securing consensus and commitment of both specific social groups and individuals. However, this massive cultural circulation cannot be considered just as a top-down process imposed by state agencies onto passive recipients: both pre-war culture and striking voluntary forms of full engagement and participation in the war hybridized with and reacted to the official paths of mobilization, opening up a dynamic space of floating cultural materials. Political, national, cultural, and gender identities were dramatically challenged and questioned by the whirl of discourses and representations that called to mobilization. Accordingly, existing identities were mobilized in a twofold sense: they were urged to respond actively and concretely to the war and they were also symbolically put in motion by it, that is, confronted with unsettlement and reshaping.

The aim of this conference is to gather together scholars in a diverse range of disciplines (history, classics, philosophy, literary and cultural studies) and discuss to what extent and how the war, its representations and its contemporary memory, can be considered as a laboratory for testing identities at large.

This conference is generously funded by the European Commission (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions), the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Edinburgh (Knowledge Exchange and Impact Fund), the Department of European Languages and Cultures at the University of Edinburgh, and the Italian Cultural Institute in Edinburgh.

Concept and organisation: Cristina Savettieri, Federica Pedriali


Conference Programme

Thursday 11 May 2017 – School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures – Project Room 1.06

9.30 Welcome and coffee

10.00 Opening remarks

Art and Politics


Simona Storchi (University of Leicester)

The Artist as Veteran: Artistic Identities and Politics in Post-World War I Italy

Selena Daly (University College Dublin)

‘Moderate Futurism’ and the shifting identities of the Futurists at war

11.30-11.50 Coffee break

Intellectuals at war


Elizabeth Pender (University of Leeds)

Hellenic Idealism in WW1: from Gilbert Murray to the Union of Democratic Control

Franziska Heimburger (Université Paris-Sorbonne)

Allied identity? André Maurois’ experience of the First World War

13.10-14.30 Lunch

War and Biopolitics


Federica Pedriali (University of Edinburgh)

Puer Sacer and Destination No Man’s Land

15.15-15.30 Closing remarks


Friday 12 May 2017 – School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures – Project Room 1.06

9.30 Welcome and coffee

Male Identities


Marco Mondini (University of Padua & Italian German Historical Institute)

Brothers in arms, or “the genuine family of my extraordinary youth”. Male bonding in the Italian war literature

Cristina Savettieri (University of Edinburgh)

Gender Trouble in Italian Narratives of Captivity of the First World War

11.20-11.40 Coffee break

Civilian Mobilization


Angie Hobbs (University of Sheffield)

Women, Heroism and WW1

Daniel Steinbach (University of Exeter)

Empire, Nation, Race: Contested Identities in Wartime Africa, 1914-1919

13.00-14.20 Lunch



Tea Sindbæk (University of Copenhagen)

Croatia and the First World War: National Forgetting in a Memorial Shatter Zone

Ross Wilson (University of Chichester)

Remembering the Great War in Britain: centenaries and the making of modern identities

15.40-15.50 Coffee break

15.50-16.30 Closing remarks and final discussion