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Wars and traces of war

The conflicts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries–guerilla conflict, civil war, world war–along with the material and psychological traces left by wars.

Editorial managers: Corine Defrance, Mathieu Jestin and François-Xavier Nérard

“Into the Jaws of Death. U.S. Troops wading through water and Nazi gunfire” 6 june 1944, Omaha Beach, Normandie.  Source : National Archives catalog
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The study of combatants should be approached in its diversity. It firstly involves the large mass of men who, under various statuses, directly participate in war. One becomes a combatant in a number of ways: mobilization is a key moment, although conscription, voluntary service, and forced enrolment should also be explored. Combatants are not necessarily uniformed members of the military, as civilians—men, women and adolescents—can also take up arms. Even animals can be “mobilized”. Death, wounds, and imprisonment marked the daily life of these combatants, even if the evolution of conflicts and weaponry profoundly changed the nature of physical confrontation. Reflecting upon combatants also entails exploring the question of authority, respect, and obedience (mutiny, insubordination, deserters, even moments of fraternization with the “enemy”). Their lives cannot ultimately be reduced solely to combat, as their morale, leisure, and health also come into consideration.

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How does one emerge from war—world, regional or civil war—and live with others after conflict? The term “transitional justice” emerged during the 1990s in reference to times of peace-building, opening a new field of research and expertise. This notion takes into account both the traditional instruments of justice, such as purge trials and reparations, as well as symbolic instruments, such as public requests for apology or pardon and gestures of repentance, along with numerous initiatives for restoring confidence. While “reconciliation” is the ultimate goal, it is even more so the often dissymmetrical and imperfect process of rapprochement itself, which engages various actors on multiple levels. The question of the relation to the past occupies a central and controversial role, with responses ranging from amnesia to hypermnesia. In 2012, the European Union received the Nobel Peace Prize for its contributions to reconciliation: does it represent a space of experiment and reference?

Régiment de femmes de Pétrograd au repos, buvant le thé et mangeant, devant leurs tentes. Armée russe, Première Guerre mondiale.
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Lionel Royer, La reddition de Vercingétorix en -52, 1899
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