Aesthetics, Emotions, Wars

Juliette Bour, Parand Danesh, Jean-Philippe Miller-Tremblay, Doriane Molay (Centre d'études sociologiques et politiques Raymond Aron (CESPRA) de l'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS))
Centre d'études sociologiques et politiques Raymond Aron (CESPRA) de l'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS)
Campus Condorcet
Gefördert durch
Juliette Bour, Parand Danesh, Jean-Philippe Miller-Tremblay, Doriane Molay
Vom - Bis
26.04.2021 -
Juliette Bour (EHESS, CESPRA) Parand Danesh (EHESS, CESPRA) Jean-Philippe Miller-Tremblay (EHESS, CESPRA) Doriane Molay (EHESS, CESPRA)

Organized in Paris at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS, School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences), this international conference will be devoted to the study of the co-dependencies between aesthetics, emotions, and wars. Our aim is to organize debates known to various disciplines disjointed by university specializations and yet all concerned by these three key notions of humanities and social sciences.

Aesthetics, Emotions, Wars

War represents an extreme and radically transformative ordeal that disorganizes ordinary perceptions: it is a violent conflict that disrupts daily life and unsettles the subject and the group to which he belongs. It transforms the perception of the surrounding world as well as intersubjective relationships. In this respect, the war produces new aesthetics (aïsthesis) understood as the study of the artistic artifacts as well as the study of the sensitive knowledge mobilizing the body and its affected productions. From conflicts emerge material and expressive forms: aesthetics model a space between gesture and gaze that distances (Boltanski, 1993), reveals and offends, both lectio (reading) and delectation (contemplation) (Didi- Huberman, 2009). And if the war produces new aïsthesis, these in turn transfigure the war by generating external and concrete images that are at odds with the mental representations that contributed to its formation (Belting, 2004). Moreover, war generates strong emotions, as societies are marked by loss, humiliation, hatred, and guilt. From the alteration of moral judgment when face to face with the terror of dying (Solomon, Greenberg & Pyszczynski, 2002) to the unrestrained expression of virile emotions such as aggressiveness (Sasson-Levy, 2008), and the social sharing of emotions (Rimé, 2005), emotional life, which is intimately linked to values, beliefs and representations of oneself and others, is changed.

The body in war is already studied in its materiality (Körper) as a damaged body (Delaporte, 2017), a raped body (Branche, 2011), a disciplined body (Teboul, 2017). Other, less numerous works also think about war through the sole prism of aesthetics or emotion. Studies such as that of Scott Hughes Myerly (1996), which draws a socio-aesthetic history of war from the military spectacle, may be useful. We can also mention Reichel's work (1993), published three years earlier and reflecting on the aesthetic strategy of Hitler's party; or Annette Becker's Les cicatrices rouges (2010), which reveals the emotions suffered by the French population of occupied territories in 1914-1918, as well as the investigation proposed by Dominique Roynette and Tomasz Kizny, which shows the power and singularity of the emotions provoked by the Great Terror in the USSR by highlighting their very forms: testimonies, archives and photographs made by Kizny himself (2013). Finally, let us think of the manual for female soldiers by contemporary artist Coco Fusco (2008) in which she questions the way hypersexualization can become a weapon of torture in its own right. The conference Aesthetics, Emotions, Wars thus aims to underline the necessary association of these three terms and, to this end, we will consider the body as a vector and / or receptacle of aesthetics and emotions.

The primary objective of this scientific meeting will be to explore new approaches to warfare at the intersection of a wide range of disciplines that allow the study of aesthetics and emotions in wartime - including history, sociology, social psychology, philosophy, literature, aesthetic studies, visual anthropology, cognitive sciences, colonial studies, and gender studies, to name but a few. Its central question will be: in what way is warfare the cradle of aesthetics, affective configurations, and shared beliefs and what have they produced on these events themselves, both in their immediate manifestations and in their future perceptions? Thus, without disciplinary or spatio-temporal restrictions – the relations of influence between aesthetics, emotions and wars being specific neither to a country, nor to an epoch, nor to an epistemological field – proposals could take the following directions:

- To think of institutions – such as the military or the school – as generators of aesthetics and emotions with war as a horizon of expectation (horizon d’attente). How do these institutions, with past, present, or anticipated conflicts in perspective, transform bodies – and with what objectives and results on the battlefield? What are the military stakes to which these aesthetics and emotions respond? For example, how do they promote, or on the contrary destroy, the cohesion of the "primary group" (Shils and Janowitz, 1948), of the service branch or even of the entire army?
- To question the way in which the individual at war produces, on his own scale, new aesthetic norms. Thus, proposals dealing with questions of transgression of these norms, notably gender norms, are welcome. We are thinking of the staging of the warrior self and its emotions, in its sensitive dimensions – both concrete and material.
- To study how experiences of extreme violence, mass death and terror come to transform our inter- subjective relations and more precisely our relationship to otherness, reputation, and identity. What can we learn from the reversal, or even the annihilation of social inferences and moral values that were previously collectively shared? Yesterday's neighbors becoming enemies, domestic heroes being designated as assassins on other territories: how does war produce communities of affects so powerful that they alter our perception of others?
- To examine how the subject can topple an affected experience of war by giving it an aesthetic form that confronts memory - without begin exhaustive, we can think here of the novel, the constitution of photographic albums or the elaboration of pictorial works like those of the German expressionist current. It is thus mainly the individual subject that will be discussed and the form (Gestalt) that it produces from the emotions brought by his experience of war. What are the characteristics of these aesthetic productions? Do they modify the ‘experience-war’ as it was lived on the level of affects, and if so, how? And what impact do they have in the long term and on a collective scale?


BECKER Annette, Les cicatrices rouges, 14-18, France et Belgique occupées, Paris, Fayard, 2010.
BELTING Hans, Pour une anthropologie des images, trad. par J. Torrent, Paris, Gallimard, coll. Le Temps des images, 2004.
BOLTANSKI Luc, La souffrance à distance, Paris, Éditions Métailié, coll. Leçons de choses, 1993.
BRANCHE Raphaëlle (dir.), Viols en temps de guerre, Paris, Payot, 2011.
DIDI-HUBERMAN Georges, Quand les images prennent position, L’œil de l’histoire, 1, Paris, Éditions de Minuit, coll. Paradoxe, 2009.
FUSCO Coco et CUSSET François, Petit manuel de torture à l’usage des femmes-soldats, Paris, Les Prairies Ordinaires, 2008.
HUGHES MYERLY Scott, British Military Spectacle: From the Napoleonic Wars through the Crimea, Cambridge (MA), Harvard University Press, 1996.
HUTCHISON Emma, Affective Communities in World Politics: Collective Emotions after Trauma, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2016.
KIZNY Tomasz et ROYNETTE Dominique, La Grande Terreur en URSS 1937-1938, trad. par V. Patte et A. Wisniewski, Paris, Noir sur Blanc, coll. Essais Docs, 2013.
PYSZCZYNSKI Thomas A., SOLOMON Sheldon, GREENBERG Jeff, In the Wake of 9/11, The Psychology of Terror, USA, American Psychological Association, 2002.
REICHEL Peter, La Fascination du nazisme, trad. par O. Mannoni, Paris, Odile Jacob, 1993.
RIMÉ Bernard, Le partage social des émotions, Paris, Puf, 2005.
SASSON-LEVY Orna, « Individual Bodies, Collective State Interests », Men and Masculinities, 2008, vol. 10, p. 296-321.
SHILS Edward A. et JANOWITZ Morris, « Cohesion and Disintegration in the Wehrmacht in World War II », Public Opinion Quarterly, 1948, vol. 12, no 2, p. 280-315.
TEBOUL Jeanne, Corps combattant : la production du soldat, Paris, Maison des sciences de l’homme, 2017.



The conference, organized with the joint support of the Centre d'études sociologiques et politiques Raymond Aron (CESPRA) of the EHESS and the Campus Condorcet, is intended to be interdisciplinary and open to young researchers (master’s, doctoral, postdoctoral). It is open to all research (in the humanities and social sciences) related to the study of aesthetics and emotions in war situations, from Antiquity to the present.

Proposals should include a brief presentation of the corpus studied (sources, framework of the investigation, methodology) followed by a short bio-bibliography. Surname, first name, level of study (master’s, doctoral, postdoctoral) and institutional affiliations must be indicated. They may be written in English or French and should not exceed 2,500 characters, spaces included. Proposals should be accompanied by two images representative of the object, situation, event or phenomenon studied in the presentation.

The proposals and the two images (inserted in the .pdf or .doc file) are due by June 15, 2021 and should be sent to the following address:

We invite you to contact your university or research center to know how to finance your travel and accommodation in Paris. In case your institution refuses, we kindly ask you to indicate the possible needs for financial support.


- June 15, 2021: proposal submission deadline;
- July 2021: selection of speakers;
- September 15, 2021: first draft of the paper submission deadline;
- November 2021: holding of the conference (the exact dates will be transmitted later in light of the evolution of the health situation).


Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau (EHESS, CESPRA)
Barbara Carnevali (EHESS, CESPRA)
Christian Ingrao (CNRS, CESPRA)
Manon Pignot (UPJV)
Richard Rechtman (EHESS, CESPRA)


Juliette Bour (EHESS, CESPRA)
Parand Danesh (EHESS, CESPRA)
Jean-Philippe Miller-Tremblay (EHESS, CESPRA)
Doriane Molay (EHESS, CESPRA)