In 20th-century America, military heroism became a key symbol of what was regarded as a heterosexual, masculine white nation. Military heroism thus became a major discursive battleground on which dominant notions of race, gender, and national identity were negotiated, challenged, and revised. This conference seeks to probe this complex interrelationship and how it changed between 1914 and 2014, asking how military heroism helped to construct and challenge racialized and gendered hierarchies in the United States. It seeks to examine how the praise of heroic behavior on the battlefield or the refusal to give such praise became either a means of marginalization or a resource that minorities could utilize to protest against their marginal status. This process is closely linked to dominant notions of masculinity and femininity, to scientific and popular understandings of race, and to politicized ideals of heroism and American citizenship. It is this interrelationship that the conference will focus on.
The aim of the conference is thus not to unearth the “unsung” heroism of previously neglected groups of soldiers but rather to shed light on the processes of “heroization” that allowed people to legitimate or to challenge discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and sexual orientation. While the conference organizers welcome papers that show how the dominant ideal of the white, heterosexual warrior hero was constructed and perpetuated in the 20th and 21st centuries, they are particularly interested in contributions that focus on the efforts of marginalized groups to challenge this ideal, even though it is clear that these two perspectives are closely intertwined.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
- the ways in which such groups as African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Jewish Americans, Native Americans, members of the LGBT community as well as white men and women were affected by the military heroism discourse, but also how these groups actively shaped this discourse between 1914 and 2014.
- gendered and racialized processes of heroization during and after military conflicts in which the United States were involved between 1914 and 2014 as well as the gendered and racialized memory of military heroes and heroines.
- the ways in which debates on who should be allowed to serve in the military (e.g. African Americans, women, members of the LGBT community) intersected with the discourse on military heroism.
- gendered and racialized interpretations and representations of military heroism in the mass media and in popular culture (e.g. newspapers, comics, film, internet).
The conference will be held at the University of Frankfurt in Frankfurt, Germany, on March 20-21, 2015, and is organized by Simon Wendt (University of Frankfurt) and Matthias Voigt (University of Frankfurt). The university will provide support for presenters’ travel and lodging expenses.
Proposals should be no longer than 500 words and need to include a summary of the paper’s argument and structure as well as information on the sources upon which it draws. A brief CV should accompany the proposal. The deadline for receipt of proposals is August 1, 2014. Please send them via email to Matthias Voigt at firstname.lastname@example.org. Authors of accepted proposals will be notified by August 31, 2014.