The annual conference of the Arbeitskreis Militärgeschichte (Military History Study Group) will address the phenomena of (armed and fighting) female soldiers from the ancient world to the present in a comparative perspective.
The conference will be held November 13-15, 2008 in the Castle of Dornburg just outside Jena/Germany.
Social, cultural, gender, military, political and institutional history
Scope of the conference:
Far to the East, in Cambodia, a grave dating from the 5th century AD was recently discovered in which women with swords had been buried. Presumably, these women had belonged to a civilization in which female warriors played a central role. Western culture, to the contrary, was dominated by the image of the weak female in need of (male) protection. Indeed, the perception of the “soldier” as it emerged in context of the creation of standing armies during the second half of the 17th century undoubtably carries a masculine connotation. Recent military historiography has convincingly shown, however, that the simple equation of military and masculinity is historically incorrect. Not only those examples which are as geographically and chronollogically remote as the women warriors in Cambodia herald new historical realities, but also a closer look at the recent history in the Western hemisphere shows that women have come to cross the barriers to military violence ever more often and ever more clearly.
The conference will address the phenomena of (armed and fighting) female soldiers from the ancient world to the present in a comparative perspective. One focus might be on traditions of the deployment of women soldiers since the early modern period, another on the so-called New Wars since 1945 in the course of which women acted in various ways. They fought in guerilla wars, for example in Vietnam, Northern Ireland, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, or Libanon; and as members of regular armed forces such as those of the United States, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Great Britain, France, Taiwan, Israel, or Russia they have been and/or continue to be employed in (partly armed) missions. After the European High Court verdict of the year 2000 German women too have the principal possibility to perform service in arms in the Bundeswehr.
Even if the female warrior stands at the center of attention, for heuristic reasons the term “female soldier” shall remain widely conceptualized. The analysis of female soldiers shall include all women who either fought as members of armed forces or contributed to warfare in their immediate proximity fulfilling various functions. One can distinguish different degrees to which females were tied to a military effort: from the fighting female combattants to the women in auxiliary forces who supported warfare rather from the periphery than from its center. The latter, for example the "Trossfrauen" of the early modern period, the female administrative "Etappenhelferinnen" in World War I, or the female staff personnel in World War II, should be included in the conference deliberations in so far as their various functions carried them into the center of military violence. Yet, the former, the female combattants, are the focus of the conference. Joshua S. Goldstein has described four ways in which “women warriors” have appeared in history: in exclusively female fighting units, in mixed gender units, camouflaged as male soldiers, and as military leaders following the model of Jeanne d’Arc.
Call for Papers:
Participants are invited to examine the global phenomenon of female soldiers by chosing different approaches – e.g., cultural history, social history, or biography – and exploring them based on diverse source material. The following sample questions could inform the interpretations: How were female soldiers recruited and employed in military actions? Can one discern specific female approaches to the military apparatus and operations, is it possible to identify and describe peculiar modes of warfare? In which ways did women imitate, appropriate and modify traditional male forms of violence and fighting? In which ways was the symbolic and real gender system changed by war? Did specific gender relations or gender constructions aggravate or alleviate the structures and practices of violence? And how did postwar societies deal with female soldiers? Did they play any role in the collective memory, the public commemoration of war?
Please submit your abstract with a short CV by March 31, 2008, to email@example.com
Organizers: Arbeitskreis Militärgeschichte e.V. in cooperation with Jena Center. Geschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts/20th Century History; PD Dr. Silke Satjukow, Dr. Klaus Latzel, Dr. des. Franka Maubach (all Univ. Jena)
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