People in Objects: Individuality and the Quotidian in the Material Culture of War



Battle-zone landscapes of modern industrialized war are unique locations for the creation and expression of individual identity. The massed ranks of modern armies, and the innumerable lethal technologies that accompany them, often appear to submerge and elide the life of the individual. In fact, the conditions of modern war sharpen the experiences of conflict, and emphasize the struggle to remain human, and to demonstrate one’s fragile humanity in the face of overwhelming impersonal force. During the First World War of 1914–1918, along the Western Front of northern France and Belgium, soldiers (and sometimes also civilians) found themselves in visceral life-and-death situations. They suffered physical and psychological trauma, and were often unable to verbally express what they had seen and endured, especially to those who waited at home. R.H. Tawney, on leave after being wounded on the Somme in 1916, expressed the ontological distance between himself and his family and friends.


High Explosive Ambiguous Nature Walk Stick Western Front German Soldier 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Archaeology and AnthropologyUniversity of BristolBristolUK

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