October 18, 2011

Women, War & Peace

What if you looked at war as though women mattered? What if you looked at peace as though women mattered? These two questions are at the heart of a five-hour series, Women, War & Peace, a comprehensive global media initiative on the changing roles of women in war and peace. 

Filmed in conflict zones in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Colombia, and Liberia, Women, War & Peace couldn’t be timelier. As the recent developments in Afghanistan make headlines around the world, Women, War & Peace places women at the center of an urgent dialogue about conflict and security.

Among the women spotlighted are Afghan women’s rights activists who are risking their lives to make sure that women have a seat at the table in peace talks with the Taliban; the courageous Bosnian women who broke history’s great silence and testified about their rape and sexual enslavement, leading to ahistoric court victory; two extraordinary Colombian women who are braving death threats to remain on the gold-rich land that has sustained their community for centuries; and a group of Liberian women, led by activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, who faced down the killers and brought peace to theircountry.  The Liberian women’s inspiring story is told in the award-winning documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell, airing for the first time on U.S. television as part of Women, War & Peace.

As Women, War & Peace reveals, the majority of today’s conflicts are not fought by nations and their armies, but rather by gangs, insurgent groups, and warlords armed with small arms and improvised weapons. Women have become primary targets in these conflicts and though they are suffering unprecedented casualties they are simultaneously emerging as critical partners in brokering peace and as leaders in forging new international laws governing conflict. For five consecutive weeks, Women, War & Peace focuses on the under-reported stories of the women who are changing the rules of engagement in conflict hotspots all over the world, reframing our understanding of modern warfare.

To extend public awareness, political debate, and community action around the issues showcased in Women, War & Peace, this series also offers an outreach and audience engagement campaign intended toaugment audiences before, during, and after the series premiere in October 2011. In addition, this fall, Women, War & Peace joins the collection of films offered by Women and Girls Lead  for free community screenings leading up to the series’ premiere. Women and Girls Lead is a multi-year public media initiative to focus, educate, and connect citizens worldwide in support of the issues facing women and girls.

Accompanying the broadcast of Women, War & Peace is a companion website (womenwarandpeace.org) featuring video clips, audio interviews, behind-the-scenes reports from filmmakers and stakeholders, original reporting, web-exclusive content, interviews with leading scholars and journalists, and educator and facilitator guides.

Scott Witzke
WTIU - Television from Indiana University

Women, War & Peace airs every Tuesday at 10pm on WTIU Public Television through November 8. The schedule includes “I Came to Testify” (October 11), “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” (October 18) “Peace Unveiled” (October 25) “The War We Are Living (November 1) and “War Redefined” (November 8).

October 17, 2011

The Things They Carried

The first time I read Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, I was a freshman enthralled by my recent ascension to higher education. The novel deeply affected me - encouraging me to think about how our country perceives war, freedom, and mandatory service. I read the novel for a second time this month, and this time around the story resonated with me with even more force. I have applied for a Navy scholarship to go to medical school, and to complete my application, I was required to have a military physical. I moved through a series of diagnostic tests and examinations at MEPS- the Military Entrance Processing Station- an enormous, intimidating government building. As I moved from one testing state to another (with my wallet, cell phone, and personal belonging stored in a locker), I carried around one thing - copy of The Things They Carried. While I watched mostly 17-18 year-old young men complete their final steps before heading off to boot camp, I grappled with how our country perceives war, freedom, and our volunteer army.

Moving from a more anecdotal lens to a more analytical perspective, let me discuss the final story in The Things They Carried and my opinion of its significance. I believe the final story, the first story in O’Brien’s life, serves as a strong and unifying ending for the entire novel. As readers, we gain more insight into O’Brien’s long-lasting quest to understand death and what is means to die. Besides the numerous encounters O’Brien has with death and dead loved ones during the war, we learn that he has been grappling with death since his first love, Linda, died when they were just nine years old. I consider it more of an ending than a beginning because to me, it functions as the final curvature of the archetypal story circle. As O’Brien alludes to throughout the novel, this is not simply a war story; it is a story about the emotions of war. And after reading the final story, I believe this is a novel about the emotions of death, and how to cope with loss, grief, embarrassment, and guilt. I believe it is a book to honor those who have died, and way to keep people alive, at least in memory. While the soldiers in the novel “carried” many things (weapons, food, family heirlooms), O’Brien mentions early in the novel that “They all carried ghosts.”  At the end of the novel, we learn that in addition to the war-related ghosts that the character O’Brien carries, he also carries the ghost of Linda, representing the most basic and primal desire to understand death and what it means to die. As I continue on my path to become a Navy physician, I too wonder about death and dying and how such powerful human concepts are viewed in light of war and conflict.

Andrea Wolf

Andrea Wolf is a senior at Indiana University.

Author Tim O'Brien will speak about The Things They Carried on Wednesday, October 19 at 7:30 p.m. in Ballantine 013.

October 13, 2011

My Vietnam Your Iraq – The Backstory

One of the veterans I interviewed for My Vietnam Your Iraq said, “I wasn’t in college and all the guys around me were getting drafted so I knew I’d be going.” That was my story as well. In 1968, a neighborhood friend of mine had joined the Marines and was killed in Da Nang only several weeks after he arrived. His tragic death had an impact on me and I realized that I didn’t want to end up in a combat unit in Vietnam. I passed my Army physical later in 1968 and while waiting for my orders I decided to join the Navy. I knew this was the right decision for me, even though the enlistment would be 4 years instead of the 2 years required for a draftee.

I hugged my mom and my dad and boarded a train from Chicago to Great Lakes Illinois on December 28, 1968. I spent the majority of the next four years onboard the USS Oriskany, an aircraft carrier operating in the waters off the coast of Vietnam. After each of my three WESTPAC cruises to the South China Sea I’d come home on leave and saw first-hand the growing resistance to our involvement in the War.  Whether we agreed or disagreed with the war effort, it was a confusing time.

I was discharged from active duty in 1972 and attended community college only one day after I returned home. I felt like a fish out of water as I wandered through the campus, but a serendipitous encounter changed that. I met a young woman in class that first day and we began dating several months later. Finding a job, going to school and having a girl friend made my transition home a positive experience. By the way, we celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary in June 2011.

Through most of my adult life I tried to forget about my military service. I was fortunate to have a wonderful family and good career. I also know first-hand that many did not come home and others came home with trauma and life-long injuries.  

In 2004 I was working on a documentary with John Mellencamp and there was a lot of discussion about the war in Iraq and supporting the troops, but not the War. Some of the band members were too young to understand that it was considerably different during the Vietnam years and it wasn’t uncommon for a veteran to be identified as a baby killer.

In 2005 I heard that there was going to be a dedication of a new Vietnam Veterans Memorial in my hometown, Chicago. I also found out that the Vietnam Veterans against the War (VVAW) would be hosting a protest a few bocks away and immediately after the dedication ended.

At the dedication I saw hundreds of men my age in the audience. Many were wearing something to identify them as a Vietnam veteran. The event included short welcome and dedication speeches from several politicians and dignitaries.   In addition, a military band played and an aircraft fly over completed the celebration.

Afterwards, I walked a few minutes to the VVAW protest. I was a VVAW member in 1972 and was curious why they were still active more than 30 years later.  At the meeting I heard a speaker offer assistance to veterans trying to navigate the VA medical system and I was happy to hear about that initiative.  Next a few young veterans who had returned from Iraq spoke out against their war. After the event was over and people were cleaning up and leaving I went up to one of these young soldiers and told him it was brave of him to speak out in public while still on active duty. He looked towards me, having a hard time making eye contact, and said that his dad would be very disappointed in him. I told him I understood but that I was hopeful they would still be respectful of each other. He went on to say that his dad was a Vietnam era veteran and had been so proud when his son had joined the Army.

While driving home to Bloomington I kept thinking how sad this was. I thought back to how my dad (WWII veteran) had reacted towards my negativity about Vietnam. He didn’t understand, but he didn’t let that interfere with our relationship. I wish he were here today to watch the documentary.

Within days I started to research the feasibility of creating a documentary that would tell stories about the pride, fear and other emotions between a parent who served in Vietnam and a child serving in Iraq. During my research I came across a newspaper story headline. It read, “He should be burying me.”  After reading the story I decided that I would move forward with the idea. The next step was locating families and the challenge of telling their stories.

As I reflect back I can say that the journey was a powerful experience and finishing the documentary was an added bonus. To be invited in their homes and hear their personal stories were cherished moments. The families were inspiring and thoughtful, struggling and successful, and every one of them is now a friend of mine. Welcome home.

Ron Osgood
Department of Telecommunications
IU College of Arts and Sciences

Ron Osgood's My Vietnam, Your Iraq will be shown tonight (Thursday, October 13) at 7:00 at IU Cinema.

October 11, 2011

The Jerusalem Project 1991-2011

On October 12, from 1:30-4:30 in the Mathers Museum of World Culture, Israeli, Palestinian, and U.S. scholars will address the terms of engagement that emerge and diverge in the occupied/disputed/contested city of Jerusalem. In light of the recent human rights violations against Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem neighborhoods, they will discuss boundaries and border crossings between political activism and academic research as well as the prospects and pitfalls of scholarly “dialogue” projects that engage across Israeli and Palestinian lines in the city.

Participants will draw upon their twenty-year engagement in developing the Jerusalem Project’s ethnographic and pedagogic programs as well as their ongoing and much longer involvement with numerous political movements and organizations to assess the prospects as well as the limits of such engagements.

The forum will draw upon the twenty-year experience of this folklore-based project in asking how folklorists can be effective in resisting the human rights violations against Palestinian residents of the city.

History of the Project
The Jerusalem Project began in 1992 under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage as a research initiative among Israeli, Palestinian and US scholars. In 1992-93, parallel and self-determined Israeli and Palestinian research teams conducted ethnographic research on the cultures and identities in contemporary Jerusalem. The research teams, led by Galit Hasan-Rokem (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Suad Amiry (Bir Zeit University) in coordination with Jerusalem Project director, Amy Horowitz (Smithsonian/OSU), recorded tales and memories of cooks, poets, folk healers, craftspeople, storytellers, and other cultural practitioners and community leaders. This ethnographic portrait, initially intended as the basis for a Smithsonian Folklife Festival program, presents Jerusalem's human legacy—people who, in the early 1990s, try to live ordinary lives under extraordinary conditions.

In 1996, the research teams developed a thirty-minute video documentary project based on their ethnographic findings.  The video project continued to explore the ethnographic method that had been developed, with parallel and self-determined Israeli and Palestinian directors, editors, and researchers who created two video snapshots of cultural life in the city. The video, Jerusalem: Gates to the City is distributed by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.  In 1999, ten Muslim and Jewish liturgical practitioners from the earlier ethnographic phase traveled to Washington to participate in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival Sacred Sounds program.

In 2001, the Living Jerusalem Project relocated to its current academic home at The Ohio State University Mershon Center for International Security Studies. In 2006, the Mershon Center hosted a working conference attended by Jerusalem Project team members from Israel, Palestine and the US. Outcomes of this meeting include: 1) an International Studies/Folklore course entitled Living Jerusalem, 2) a Living Jerusalem mini-study tour, and 3) an edited volume of essays by Jerusalem project scholars (now in manuscript form).

Today, archival holdings containing the ethnographic materials from the early 1990s are housed at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bir Zeit University and The Ohio State University. The archives include over 100 interviews with cultural practitioners, audiotapes, photographs, and forty hours of raw broadcast-quality video footage.

Please join us on October 12.  

Amy Horowitz

Adjunct Assistant Professor
Department of Comparative Studies
Lecturer, International Studies Program
The Mershon Center
The Ohio State University
The author is currently a visiting scholar at Indiana University.

A roundtable discussion "Folklore in Jerusalem between War and (no) Peace: The Jerusalem Project 1991-2011" will take place on October 12, 1:30-4:30 p.m. at Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

October 5, 2011

Tell People The Story: The Art of Gustav Potthoff

Gustav Potthoff paints to remember his fellow prisoners of war who built the Bridge over the River Kwai and the Hell Fire Pass during World War II. Concerned that those 16,000 fallen soldiers will be forgotten, the artist paints to tell people his story and to find peace among the horrors of war by commemorating those who died while building the Thailand-Burma Railway.  

Born in Indonesia and raise in a Dutch colonial orphanage, Gus enlisted as a mechanic for the Netherlands Army Tank Battalion in Bandoeng, Java, in 1941. He was captured by the Imperial Japanese Army soon after his deployment, and remained a prisoner of war until the end of World War II. During his imprisonment, he was subjected to a brutal regimen of labor, which included the construction of the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai and the Hell Fire Pass in the borderlands of Burma and Thailand. He vividly brings to life his war-time experiences on canvas. 

In 1998, Gus returned to Thailand for a Memorial for the POWs who died building the Thailand-Burma Railway. While walking a length of the Hellfire Pass, he pulled out his harmonica and played a song for the souls left behind. As he played, a cloud of beautiful butterflies swarmed around him. He knew those were the spirits of the fallen come to thank him for his remembrance. 

When Gus visited the Hellfire Pass, he saw a tree growing in the middle of the pass. The deep cut through the mountain that cost so many lives is slowly being reclaimed by nature. The tree is a symbol of healing in Gus's art.  

At home, Gus often sits on his front porch and plays improvised melodies on his harmonica in tribute. Like his paintings, his music is a creative offering to the spirits of his friends. His paintings and songs are gifts that he freely gives so others will remember the lost POWs. When asked why he does not sell his paintings, he explains,

I do my work because I promised to do. 
The remembering of friends,
Tell people the story. 
And that's what I do [it] for, just tell people story.

Jon Kay
Traditional Arts Indiana

Traditional Arts Indiana will present a special outdoor exhibition at the Indiana Memorial Union Garden, entitled Tell People the Story: The Art of Gustav Potthoff. The exhibit shares the life and work of Gustav Potthoff. The temporary exhibit will be open to the public from Exhibit 10:00 am to 5:00 pm from October 12 through the 16, 2011. 

There will be a special “Meet-the-Artist” program at noon on Saturday October 15, 2011. Gustav will be meet and talk to the public at Indiana University's Memorial Union Garden on that day.

October 3, 2011

Peace, War, Folklore

A quilt at the Mathers Museum  

When the American Folklore Society (AFS) selected Indiana University’s Bloomington campus for the location of its 2011 Annual Meeting, the faculty in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology immediately realized that the “Making War, Making Peace” theme resonated with much of the work done by folklorists around the world. Modifying the theme slightly, we chose “Peace, War, Folklore” as the focus for our own conference. This has proven to be extremely fruitful, and from October 12-15 almost 800 folklorists and ethnomusicologists will come to Bloomington to participate in three days of panels and presentations, many dedicated to discussing critical issues of conflict and concord around the world.

Tales of epic warriors; games played by refugee children; lucky charms carried into battle; musical commemorations for the fallen; stories recounted by grandparents, parents, and children: the experience of war demands creative responses to violence, fear, pain, grief, and memory. Similarly, the desire to transform war into peace can be performed in traditional and artistic ways, through music and dance, protest marches, spontaneous shrines, candlelight vigils, and even through play and competition. The making of war and the making of peace are infused with forms of expressive culture that have long been of interest to scholars of folklore.

Indeed, by studying how people individually or in groups articulate their history and identity, their values and beliefs, their anxieties and joys, folklorists seek moments of creativity embedded in everyday life, such as the telling of anecdotes or the cooking of food. They also explore creativity during special occasions or extreme circumstances, when festival celebration and the performance of rituals, for example, can articulate profoundly held beliefs or deep anxieties. So it is not surprising that folklorists often find themselves working to understand how people experience situations of conflict and its aftermath. Whether in war zones or refugee camps, with immigrants, with veterans, or through studying the ethnic slurs and jokes that betray distrust between people living together, folklorists explore the many ways in which people and communities are divided, or struggle to transcend division.

The last time the AFS meeting was held in Bloomington was in 1968, during the thick of the Vietnam War, student uprisings, and peace protests around the world. Now, in a century already racked by conflicts and ongoing struggles for peace, a new generation of folklorists comes together in Bloomington to investigate similar issues.

In addition to academic panels and presentations at this year’s meeting, the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology is sponsoring a range of events and exhibitions in conjunction with the Themester. These include a discussion between Israeli and Palestinian scholars on Jerusalem, a Branigin Lecture on conflict resolution in Ethiopia, an art exhibit by a World War II POW, a quilt exhibition focusing on human rights, and a lecture by world-renowned folklorist (and IU professor emeritus) Henry Glassie who has long worked with communities in states of conflict, resistance, and uneasy peace. These events and exhibitions are open to the public and we hope members of the Bloomington community will join us in exploring issues of war and peace through the lens of folklore and folkloristics.

Michael Dylan Foster
Assistant Professor
Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology
IU College of Arts and Sciences 

The American Folklore Society's annual meeting runs October 12-15. Several events are open to the public. See the schedule for dates and times.  

September 29, 2011

The Face(s) of War

Chiris Keelty - Vietnam  (Photo by Suzanne Opton)

Perhaps the most important decision that citizens of a democratic polity are called upon to make concern whether or not to go to war.  The problem, of course, is that the vast majority of such citizens have no direct or immediate knowledge of war.  And so what we know comes from representations of one sort or another – news reports, novels, film, and, of course, photography.  Such representations are always once removed, and equally complicated by reports of those who have been to war that no representation—however real, however verisimilar—is ever fully adequate to the task of helping one to know what it is like to be “in harm’s war.”

War photography faces the challenge of representation as much or not more than verbal or fictional representations if only because it is saddled with the mistaken assumption that it is somehow wholly objective.  But of course we know that that is not the case.  Notwithstanding the fact that we can conclude that the thing photographed was actually there (and ignoring the opportunities made available by the dark room or photoshop),  photographers choose what to include in the frame and what to exclude.  What angle to shoot from.  What speed to shoot at.  What light to employ.  What to keep in focus and what to obscure.  And so on.  In short, the photographer’s craft is an art.  And at its best, it is an important and powerful public art that helps us to see and be seen as citizens.  And of course, the soldier or warrior is first and foremost a citizen.

Much of what we experience as war photography focuses attention on the manner in which war is fought.  And whether the photographs we see shows soldiers conducting military campaigns, interacting with local children in occupied territories, experiencing the boredom of war that punctuates the time between skirmishes, suffering from wounds or worse, or returning home to the hugs and relief of friends and families, the focus is always on what we might call “the conduct of war.” And because wars are typically fought in the name of collectivities the role of the individual is played down—not erased entirely, but nevertheless minimized, as such photographs tend to underscore the archetypal quality of the scenes displayed.  Individuals tend to stand in for something larger than themselves.  And yet for all of that, one of the genres of war photography continues to be the portrait. 

Soldier: Bruno - 355 Days in Iraq (Photo by Suzanne Opton)

The most common portraits of soldiers tend to be taken prior to battle and usually feature the soldier in full uniform.  This is of course a practice that is as old as the Civil War.  And whether taken by the military itself or by friends and family members, such portraits veil the identity of the individual beneath the uniform and mark the soldier first and foremost as a representative of the state.  In recent years a number of photographers have begun to challenge such work and in a way designed to remind us of the individuals doing the fighting.  Premiere amongst such work is the photography of Suzanne Opton.

In a series of projects beginning as early as 2003 Suzanne Opton has been photographing individual soldiers, emphasizing the artistic conventions of portraiture designed to help us engage and understand the individual qua individual.  And with stunning results. Taken “at home,” rather than on the war front, the soldiers she photographs are all out of uniform.  And thus there is a sense in which their status as “citizen” is accented, rather than their sense as warriors.  And yet they are unmistakably marked by their war experiences.  In one set of images, titled “Many Wars” she photographs veterans in treatment for combat trauma, but what marks the series is that they cut across every American war from World War II to the present.  Shrouded in cloth, and generally distinguished by age and the different wars in which they fought, they are nevertheless shown to be as one, even as they are portrayed as individuals—a paradox that underscores the in/visibility of war as it crosses generations (and more).

Suzanne Opton's Soldier Billboard Project
In one of her most recent works, titled “Soldiers” she photographs veterans returning from Iraq, by asking them to lie on the ground with their faces at rest, almost as if they were preparing to go to sleep.  The pose not only resists the typical conventions of portraiture (showing the individual sitting or standing up straight, shoulders back, emphasizing their strength and agency) but locates them in that liminal state between full and active consciousness and the dream world of sleep. In surely operates as a visual metaphor for the condition of such individuals.  There is also a gesture here to the “two thousand yard stare” that recurs as a convention of war photography, made all the more haunting by the fact that these individuals are out of uniform and thus that much closer to us as citizens on the homefront.   These photographs were part of a provocative and controversial “Billboard” campaign which, in their own way, demonstrate the sense in which the soldier has become more or less invisible in the contemporary landscape.

Whatever one makes of Opton’s work, it is clear that she is challenging us to think about the representation of war, and more, the implications for how we experience and engage such representations as we go about our daily lives.  She will be speaking on campus on Monday, October 10, 2010.  The title of her presentation is “Many Wars: The Difficulty of Home” and it will take place in Fine Arts 015 from 7:00-8:30 p.m.  The public is welcome (and encouraged) to attend.

John Louis Lucaites
Professor, Rhetoric and Public Culture
Department of Communication and Culture
IU College of Arts and Sciences

Professor Lucaites co-hosts the blog www.nocaptionneed.com, which regularly discusses the visualization of war in contemporary photojournalistic practice.

September 22, 2011

Ashes and Diamonds

Since Ashes and Diamonds is such an iconic film, one which every Pole or fan of Polish culture has seen, I asked friends in both categories to share reminiscences of the first time they saw Popiół i diament (as it’s titled in Poland – for some reason, only one “diamond” in Polish!).

It was “my first unadulterated experience of the Polish spirit,” one recalled. “I was deeply moved by its passion and by the emotional uses of light (or actually shadow) and space.” Wrote another: “Ashes and Diamonds had an almost mystical feel for me – and yet it was also full of unambiguous action. I knew only that the lead actor was supposedly ‘the Polish James Dean’, and Zbigniew Cybulski was everything Dean was, and more. Most of all, I remember that strange feeling when I realized the film’s message: for Poles in 1945 the war was over yet it wasn’t over at all.” Another, recalling his first viewing some 40 years ago, puts Ashes and Diamonds in the company of the greats of European cinema: “Up until my mid-teenage years I had only been exposed to Hollywood films, so seeing Bergman, Wajda, Polanski, and Ophuls in college was a liberating experience. … The quality of the print was not good, but somehow that enhanced the essential grittiness of  the film.  The fact that the story did not end well impressed me.  This was not the first non-Hollywood film for me.”

Well, no worries about the print: we’ll be seeing an excellent print on Sunday. And we’ll also have an expert introduction. Mikołaj Kunicki of the University of Notre Dame is researching the filmmakers of Communist Poland. I asked him about his first reaction to the film, and he had this to say:

“I do not remember when I saw Andrzej Wajda's Ashes and Diamonds for the first time -- I have seen it and taught on it so many times, but what I do recall is that this movie was always discussed and present in the Polish intelligentsia households. Times have changed, so has the state of film culture. But more than fifty years after its completion, the film continues to amaze viewers, including American college students with little exposure to Polish history and culture. This universally acclaimed reception of an otherwise ‘Polonocentric’ film demonstrates its universal legacy. The plot is still riveting, but above all, what makes this film so fascinating and wonderful to watch are Wajda's iconography with the masterful use of national symbols and metaphors, Jerzy Wójcik's outstanding camera work, and, last but not least, the truly mesmerizing performance of Zbigniew Cybulski.”

All true. See for yourself Sunday at 6:30. And please note that Professor Kunicki will be giving a talk the next day, in the Walnut Room in the IMU, entitled “Men for All Seasons? Polish Artists and the Problem of Collaboration during WWII and after.” Both Wajda and the novelist Jerzy Andrzejewski, on whose book this film was based, have been accused of collaboration with the Communists. Kunicki will examine the phenomenon of collaboration in the Polish artistic community under Nazi and Soviet occupations, its different treatment by the resistance movement and the postwar government, and the very applicability of the concept of collaboration for evaluating actions taken by Polish artists.

Padraic Kenney
Director, Polish Studies Center, Indiana University

Ashes and Diamonds is one of two films sponsored by IU Polish Studies Themester, and IU Cinema. It is being show Sunday, September 25 at 6:30 p.m. at IU Cinema.

September 19, 2011

Leo Tolstoy’s War AND Peace

Sara Stefani's well-worn copy of War and Peace.

Tolstoy obviously didn’t use all caps for the conjunction in the title of his great masterpiece. Although I have read and taught War and Peace several times, I find that I am looking at it somewhat differently this semester. Perhaps not really “differently” – I have always taught my students to see the connections between the “war” scenes and the “peace” scenes – but I think that the Themester goals have made this issue of the connections between war and peace come into clearer, sharper focus. I am currently teaching a course on War and Peace as well as conducting an on-line discussion group of the book, both as part of IU’s Themester program. Since one of the goals of this fall’s Themester is to question the relationship between war and peace, and whether it is even legitimate to separate the two, I find myself coming back to this issue in relation to Tolstoy’s novel. I do think Tolstoy wants us to question whether we can truly separate war from peace. With the Themester goals in mind, however, I am starting to realize how much it is in our human nature and human psychology to do just that – to ignore Tolstoy’s conjunction, to separate war from peace and assign them to different realms of experience.

Tolstoy’s novel opens with a set of “peace” scenes in Part One of Book One and is followed in Part Two by a set of “war” scenes. In my first on-line chat session with the discussion group, one participant made the comment that Part One is all domestic, as if Tolstoy is trying to give his readers a peek into everyone’s “normal” lives before the war drops like a cannonball into their midst. But the war is a palpable presence even from the first lines of the book. Tolstoy doesn’t start us off with a piece of description (“It was a dark and stormy night”), but with the speech of a society hostess who welcomes a guest to her party by proclaiming, “If you won’t say this means war [with Napoleon] … I shall disown you.” War and peace are intertwined from the beginning. Another participant asked the question, “At the time Russia was fighting battles all over the place – so did war become a part of ‘normal’?”

In many ways, this question applies as much to our modern experience as to 18th- and 19th-century Russia. Tolstoy himself was a soldier, and he took part in one of the bloodiest battles of the Crimean War in the 1850s. One of his goals in War and Peace as well as in his earlier “Sevastopol Stories” is to de-romanticize war. His narrator (especially in the “Sevastopol Stories”) lets the reader know quite explicitly that the reality of war does not conform to the idealized image you have of it from books. But in this day and age when we rely less on books for our archetypes than on television, movies, and the Internet, our experience of war may be more immediate, but is it any less romanticized?

One of the participants in the discussion group raised the following point about the male characters in War and Peace: “How much do these men really know about actually being in war? They seem almost to regard it as a game.” Another participant responded with, “Don’t all young men heading into war try to somewhat regard it as a game? How else could you manage to do it?” And another stated, “Men never learn from history. They keep getting pulled in to war even when they know it will not be the glorious experience they envision.” Such comments illustrate the continued relevance of Tolstoy’s novel for us today, teetering as they do on the brink of chronology – are we discussing Tolstoy, or our contemporary experience? 

There are scenes in War and Peace where war and peace converge. The war is no longer just a subject for drawing room conversations. Characters face execution at the hands of a firing squad or are forced to evacuate and abandon their homes – the war literally shows up on their doorstep. But in addition to the intrusion of actual, physical war into the characters’ lives, their personal relationships often seem to be based on the tactics of war. Many seemingly “peaceful” events are fought as if on a battlefield. Marriages are not arranged based on love and companionship, but by one side ambushing another. Romantic and familial relationships are often antagonistic and occasionally violent, and characters ruin (or attempt to ruin) each other using subterfuges that are as strategic as any battle plan. Tolstoy’s novel should make us question our relationships with those around us. Why do we so often treat other people as if they were the enemy and we were at war with them?

Even though War and Peace was written in another time (the 1860s) and another place (Russia), and deals with an enemy who no longer threatens us (Napoleon), it still holds relevance for us today. After all, how much have we really changed since the 1860s? It is a mistake to ignore Tolstoy’s conjunction. We have to see the connections between war and peace. How can we possibly change the former if we don’t change the latter? How can we get rid of war if we can’t get peace right?

Sara Stefani
Assistant Professor, Slavic Languages & Literatures
IU College of Arts and Sciences

September 13, 2011

9/11: 10 Years Later

Ten years on from the collapse of the World Trade Center, there’s no shortage of reflection to be found. The blogosphere, the mass media, and the world community are reflecting not only upon the event itself, but even more so upon the political, social, economic, and cultural consequences that emerged in its wake. I struggle with how to think about these impossibly complicated circumstances in retrospect. Many of my thoughts, however, have been framed and influenced by the Themester panel on “Seeing America Through Foreign Eyes,” and especially by the comments given by Professor Micol Seigel of American Studies and African American & African Diaspora Studies.

If only to try to understand the scope of the event’s ramifications, we can try to make a short list of what we have seen. The instantiation of the “War on Terror.” The beginning of the war in Afghanistan. The passing of the USA PATRIOT Act. The anti-war protests of countless citizens. The hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the execution of Saddam Hussein. The horrors of torture in Abu Ghraib, and the scandals of “enhanced interrogation” at Guantánamo.  The national debates over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.” The mass release of damning diplomatic cables through Wikileaks. The killing of Osama Bin Laden. The military exit from Iraq.

Onward, onward. The list is familiar. Everyone is reflecting upon this date, at this time, every blog and newspaper and ceremony in memoriam of this tragedy. But the list is hardly complete. Even if it were, even if this were all we had to analyze and understand, what does one say about it all, in retrospect? Hindsight is hardly 20/20. Our past as muddled as the present was then, and as hazy as the future is now. A decade of history is infinitely full of unanswered questions, unsolved riddles, and unquenched spirits.

Perhaps the future is hazy because the picture of our world in this list is such a narrow one. In the drama that plays out when I reflect upon 9/11, center stage is taken by those events and figures that seem to fit best with the narrative of the “War on Terror.” International players who somehow became involved in the “War on Terror” become central, either as “friends”—as in the case of Israel—or as “foes”—as in the case of Venezuela, Iran, and North Korea. But so much more  has happened in the last decade, so much more that merits reflection and does not fit neatly into this narrative. Where can we place the genocide in Darfur and the independence of South Sudan? Where can we place the ongoing tensions between Serbs and Kosovars? Is it possible to talk about homogenization of cultivars, of Brazilian deforestation, of climate change, when we reflect upon the decade since 9/11? Is it possible to talk about mass incarceration, immigrant detention and deportation, and a widening gap between rich and poor? Is it possible to talk about HIV/AIDS, malaria, cholera, or typhoid? Is it possible to talk about Wikipedia, Twitter, iPhones, and all of the other new technological advances that are extending our minds, day by day?

Why is our narrative of reflection upon the last decade so monolithic? Perhaps our public memory of 9/11, as citizens of the United States, is framed by patriotism, and by her darker face, nationalism. Our memory draws upon that grand old mythico-history we as citizens both espouse and critique. Manifest destiny. The American dream. That shining light on the hill, that exceptional land of the free, that refuge for the tired, poor, huddled masses. We know the images. We know Lady Liberty, that noble eagle, the stars and stripes forever. And we know what it feels like when, sometimes, those images fail to make meaning for us.

This has been an eventful decade, and in reflecting upon it, we must do justice also to the great changes and momentous occasions that did not make the front page, or did not make the paper. The continual transformation of the world as it marches through time occurs in all of its places and facets—as our species continues to find more and more ways to alter the ecology of our planet, even the most remote peoples must face a dynamic world with courage and creativity. The decisions, voluntary or involuntary, to cope with those changes should not escape our eyes, should be attended to by our history.

Ronak Shah

Ronak Shah is a senior double majoring in cognitive science and conflict resolution. He is serving as an intern for the Themester program this fall and organizing an undergraduage workshop on conflict resolution.

"Seeing America Through Foreign Eyes" was a Themester 2011 symposium held as part  part of Indiana University's multi-event program "Remembering 9/11," which continues through Friday.

September 8, 2011

Musical Battles

Ubiquitous in times of war and peace, music was used by poor and rich, simple and powerful people to distract themselves from the horrors and exertions of war, but also to beg God for protection, celebrate military achievements, and enjoy times of peace.

The most literal connection between music and war is probably found several art-music "battle pieces" that symbolically capture the soundscape of the battlefield. One of the earliest examples, La Battaglia, composed by Heinrich Isaac (1450-1517), is filled with the ingredients that must have suggested the  last moments of preparation for a war action to the late 15th-century Florentine citizens for whom it was composed. The effects range from the the emphatic and repeated calls and shouts that evoke the chaos of the moment to the brass calls used in the wartime locations to send signals to different contingents of an army and to escort military leaders with a sounding symbol of their rank. The beginning of the piece is a perfect example of musical (and textual) chaos: "To the battle, quick, to the battle, to the battle, quick, everyone get armed with his cuiras and mail, with his cuiras and mail!"

Another famous piece, La Guerre by Clement Jannequin, first published in 1528, attempts a more systematic representation and enlarges the catalogue of battle sounds. Understandably the sub-genre remained fairly circumscribed but did not really died out, as evident in compositions by Matthias Hermann Werrecore, Andrea Gabrieli, and Adriano Banchieri. Certain crucial gestures are still found in the later Combattimento by Claudio Monteverdi from his Ottavo Libro dei Madrigali (1538), famous for the stile concitato, or in Biber's Battalia of 1673, which transposes some of Monteverdi's effects into a purely instrumental realm. Battle pieces, however, are really pieces about war and peace, the former being a terrible reality but also a powerful metaphor. Thus for instance war was used by poets and musicians to describe the condition of the lover, who has to endure all kinds of discomforts and labors to achieve victory or meet with defeat, continuing the ancient trope militat omnis amans (Ovid, Amores, 1.9). (Monteverdi indeed captures musically the remarkable coexistence of real and metaphoric war cleverly devised by Torquato Tasso in the original text.)

Besides imitated trumpet calls and the sounding equivalent of the fog of war, Isaac's Alla battaglia contains long lists of military officers' names. This may seem odd -- why would listeners want to hear name after name declined in a polyphonic piece? -- but really sheds light on the centrality of music to the rituals surrounding war. Isaac's piece was composed as part of a Florentine carnival celebration, but clearly the text was meant to carry a celebratory tone as well. The celebration of victories helped increase the political and military status, and aristocrat and high-ranking citizens participating to warfare were only too happy to be named in a piece. Music rituals surrounding war were of course not limited to celebratory song or to the wind bands mentioned. They included religious celebrations before and after the battle, often accompanied by music -- the Te Deum was a favorite thanksgiving piece, but many motets and Masses were composed as sounding monuments to saintly intercession and divine protection.

Giovanni Zanovello
Assistant Professor, Musicology
School of Music

The Bloomington Early Music Festival is September 7-11. See website for ticketing information and schedule. Admission is free to IU and Ivy Tech students, and youth under 18.

September 6, 2011

IU Art Museum explores Nazi Germany's "Spoils of War"

 When visiting an art museum, one probably doesn’t think much about the impact of past wars on the paintings hanging on the wall. Yet throughout history, war and art have been inextricably linked. Not only have countless works of art been destroyed or damaged during warfare, but works of art have often been moved great distances and to new owners as a result of looting. The IU Art Museum’s semester-long program in conjunction with Themester 2011 explores the issue of art looting in Nazi Germany.
Through a self-guided gallery tour, visitors can learn about the wartime histories of works in the museum’s permanent collection. Many of the works included in this tour would likely never have found their way to Indiana had World War II not precipitated the movement of these works out of Europe. While for the most part, the works featured in the tour were not looted, some were hidden during the war and others were preemptively shipped to the United States thanks to the foresight of their owners. Two paintings on the tour belonged to refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe who eventually made their way to Indiana University; others reached the museum by more circuitous routes.

Looting has accompanied warfare for many reasons. During antiquity, conquering armies often returned home with sculptures or precious objects from the lands they had invaded. Their loot—known as spolia—was a symbol of victory. A relief on the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum depicts Roman soldiers carrying away loot from the Temple of Jerusalem.

An organized looting campaign also accompanied the Napoleonic Wars in the early nineteenth century. Napoleon’s forces brought masterpieces of European painting and sculpture to Paris from the lands they conquered. After Napoleon’s defeat, terms of the Treaty of Vienna in 1815 required many of these art works to be restituted to their former owners. In 1907 delegates at the Hague Convention Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land drew up the first international laws banning the looting and unnecessary destruction of art and cultural property during times of war. The treaty explicitly states that “all necessary steps must be taken to spare…buildings dedicated to religion, art, science, or charitable purposes, historic monuments [and] hospitals” and additionally, that is “is especially forbidden…to destroy or seize the enemy’s property.” (Section II, Chapter I, Articles 23 and 27).

Nevertheless, Nazi Germany—what we might today call a “rogue nation”—chose to ignore international laws pertaining to human rights and property. In 1938, five years after assuming power in Germany, Hitler commenced a massive looting campaign. The previous year, he had ordered the removal of modern art from Germany’s state-run museums. Many of these modern works—which Hitler termed “degenerate”—ended up in the United States, including a painting and a sculpture on the museum’s tour. Nazi looting particularly targeted Jewish art collectors and gallery owners, not just in Germany, but in all nations occupied by the Nazis. So many art works were displaced that the Allied forces developed a large-scale restitution program at the end of the war. However, after the end of the Cold War, it became apparent that many looted works had, nevertheless, made their way into the art market and thence to museum collections around the world.

Museums are now engaged in research programs to identify examples of looted art in their collections and to work on restituting objects to claimants when necessary. The research of provenance (an object’s ownership history), however, greatly increases our knowledge of art objects, whether a problematic past is discovered or not. It is unlikely that the stories told in the self-guided tour would have been uncovered had it not been for the museum’s provenance research project, yet they add immensely to our appreciation and understanding of these works’ cultural and social roles throughout history.

I hope that visitors who participate in the “Spoils of War” self-guided tour
or attend related events will gain an increased understanding of the role played by art in World War II. Likewise, I hope that this program raises awareness of the continuing problem of looting and the destruction of artistic and cultural heritage in war zones around the world today.

Jenny McComas,
Class of 1949 Curator of Western Art after 1800

September 2, 2011

Haunting "Last Folio" inspires discussion on the role of artifacts

Every time I see Yuri Dojc's haunting photos of the objects left behind in a Slovak Jewish school after the town's Jewish community was deported to concentration camps in 1942, I feel the horror of that moment.  These photos capture the minutia of daily life, the quotidian hustle and bustle of the living, which was so suddenly destroyed.  The photo exhibition,  on display at the Grunwald Gallery of Art until October 1, is also a powerful statement of perseverance and hope.  Despite all attempts to erase any memory of the Jewish community of that town, over sixty years later, the objects are still telling their story—screaming for remembrance.  The exhibit includes as well stunning portraits of Jewish survivors in Slovakia, providing further evidence that life continues beyond war.

At the academic symposium that took place on Thursday, September 1-- the anniversary of the start of World War II--Dojc spoke about his own family and the process of discovery that led him to back to his native Slovakia.  The symposium began with a showing of London-based producer and director Katya Krausova's short documentary film, The Last Folio: The Story of Yuri's Pictures, which chronicles Dojc's photographic expeditions to Slovakia.  The incredible coincidence of finding among the piles of discarded sacred texts, a worn copy of a book stamped with the name of Yuri's own grandfather, shows the interconnections of history.  The film is available for viewing at http://lastfolio.squarespace.com/watch

The symposium also included a discussion with several IU faculty members who work on related issues.  Ed Linenthal, Professor in the Department of History and editor of the Journal of American History, spoke about the impact of small artifacts in the Smithsonian's Enola Gay exhibition that was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.

One artifact, in particular, a Japanese school girl's lunch box, aroused controversy by evoking sympathy for the victims of the bombing that ended that terrible war. Dov-Ber Kerler, the Dr. Alice Field Cohn Chair in Yiddish Studies and Professor of Germanic Studies, spoke about his own work interviewing Yiddish speakers in Eastern Europe, and argued that the focus of such scholarship must be on the living.  Mark Roseman, the Pat M. Glazer Chair in Jewish Studies and Professor of History, compared commemoration of the Holocaust in Western and Eastern Europe and spoke about the visceral impact that less-developed Holocaust memorial sites, such as the site of Sobibor, can have on visitors.  The symposium concluded with a general discussion of the role of place and artifacts in memorializing war.  

Jeff Veidlinger
Professor, Department of History
Director and Alvin H. Rosenfeld Chair, Jewish Studies Program
IU College of Arts and Sciences

Last Folio: A Photographic Journey with Yuri Dojc will be on display in the newly named Grunwald Gallery (formerly SoFA Gallery) through October 1. A discussion with photographer Yuri Dojc and documentary filmmaker Katya Krausova will be held in the gallery at 5:30 p.m., Friday, September  2. An opening reception will follow.

September 1, 2011

Cardinal’s production of All My Sons brings to light the IU home front during WWII

Did you ever wonder what IU students and faculty experienced when America joined the Second World War? How did the university survive when its student body was depleted by the unprecedented mobilization of young men into military training? What did the women do who were left behind? How did faculty respond to the seeming irrelevance of certain areas of study (particularly in the arts and humanities) and the sudden secretiveness required in the research of others (physics, chemistry and engineering, for instance)? What kinds of transformations, both public and domestic, overtook the campus and the wider community? These are some of the questions addressed in Cardinal’s Student Companion to All My Sons, Arthur Miller’s acclaimed drama about an American family caught in the fallout from World War II.

A picture for press purposes of all military branches in training at Indiana University in 1943. From left to right: a WAC, a Soldier, a WAVE, a Sailor, a Marine and a Marine.

Here is a sneak peek at one of the stories the Student Companion tells, about the WAVE Storekeeper School that was established on IU’s campus.

The WAVEs Come to Bloomington

The Storekeeper’s School, which provided special training for Navy women in subjects including bookkeeping, mathematics, typing, accounting, and English composition, opened in the fall of 1942, soon after the creation of the womens’ military corps. The school was one of only three WAVE academies in the nation; its training focus was on procuring and maintaining Navy supplies, though all yeomanettes, as they were sometimes called, were required to undertake significant physical education (more than one recruit describes her aching feet after hours of drill).

As Kate Hevner Mueller, IU’s dean of women, said in her commencement address to the first WAVE class, “Do you realize that you are going to offer the men of this generation the stiffest competition they have ever had? Do you realize how far the world of industry and the world of management, of education, has come to depend on, and we hope to appreciate, the women workers? How the thinking and planning of the post-war world are being pushed forward by individual women and organized groups of women? If you do realize these things, perhaps you ought not do so much talking about it while the men are around. Women have often done their most effective work without man’s being fully aware of their efficiency.”

IU’s WAVEs did not have the luxury of being inconspicuous, however. The American public took notice. A newspaper article from the time conveys the unprecedented nature of this new military unit:

The WAVES… you have read about them. You have seen their pictures in the newspapers. You may even know that those five stirring letters stand for women appointed for volunteer emergency services. But unless you were in this mellow university town yesterday—Navy day—and saw, as we saw, the WAVES—600 strong—marching through the streets of Bloomington to the strains of music that is deeply embedded in the traditions of the United States Navy, you cannot know the record of their matchless performance in almost record time.

You cannot envision section on section of straight young backs, of forward marching feet, of keen, honest American eyes approaching on of the biggest jobs that feminine America has ever had to meet. For the WAVES are not an auxiliary; the WAVES, or women reserves, are part and parcel of the United States Navy.  (Indianapolis Star, October 28, 1943).

Though it may have taken a national emergency to bring women into the Navy, once there, they stuck fast. In 1948, Truman signed the Women’s Armed Forces Integration Act, which allowed women to serve as permanent, regular members of all branches of the military. The success of the WAVES (Women’s Naval Reserve Corps—the acronym stands for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), WACS (Women’s Army Corps), SPARS (Coast Guard Women’s Reserve Corps), WASPS (Women Airforce Service Pilots) and woman Marines proved the idea of a segregated corps for women obsolete.

More about the Indiana WAVEs (as well as professor James Madison’s poignant account of a Hoosier woman who served and died in the Red Cross) and lots more besides can be found in Cardinal Stage's  36-page Student Companion playbill, available with admission to All My Sons.

Ellen MacKay
Associate Professor,
Deptartment of English
IU College of Arts and Sciences

For ticketing information, see  http://www.cardinalstage.org.  Individual student tickets, $10. Professors who wish to bring their classes should contact Heidi Harmon, Cardinal’s director of Group Sales, for discounted tickets (heidi@cardinalstage.org; 812-336-7110). 

All audience members are invited to join Cardinal Stage and IU faculty members for two post-performance talkbacks.