>War, Conflict and Commemoration in the Age of Digital Reproduction

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Image from Avalon (Mamoru Oshii, 2001)

Below are links to some of the most interesting items to have come Film Studies For Free‘s way in the last weeks: a special issue of the high quality online, Open Access journal Digital Icons: Studies in Russian, Eurasian, and Central European New Media on War, Conflict and Commemoration. Not all of the items are film-related, though most are, in some way (asbtracts are included for easy skimming to see which). And there are two great essays on Mamoru Oshii‘s 2001 film Avalon, which FSFF particularly rated.

Issue 4, 2010: War, Conflict and Commemoration in the Age of Digital Reproduction (guest-edited by Adi Kuntsman (University of Manchester).)

4.0 Editorial | Vlad Strukov

4.1 Online Memories, Digital Conflicts and the Cybertouch of War | Adi Kuntsman 

This opening essay addresses the political and intellectual necessity that enabled me to assemble this special issue. Firstly, I argue for the need to examine the role of digital media in negotiating and commemorating wars in countries outside of the USA and Western Europe and in languages other than English. Secondly, drawing on some recent developments in research on digital media, on one hand, and war, conflict and commemoration, on the other, I claim the importance of examining the two fields together. I argue for a complex approach that would capture the ways digital media and computer technologies affect the warfare itself, its social perception as well as the ways of remembrance and commemoration. I also present several theoretical concepts – cyberscapes of memory, digital battlefields, the aftermath, passionate politics and the cybertouch of war – and outline the structure of the special issue.

4.2 The Commemoration of Nazi ‘Children’s Euthanasia’ Online and On Site | Lutz Kaelber

An integral part of the German National Socialist ‘bio-political developmental dictatorship’ programme (Schmuhl 2008), ‘euthanasia’ involved the murder of over 300,000 physically or mentally disabled persons in National Socialist Germany and its occupied territories, including children in ‘special children’s wards’ (Kinderfachabteilungen). Using the concept of traumascape as past trauma embodied at a site and brought into the present through commemoration, this article analyses the emergence of virtual traumascapes created by local memory agents who use new digital media as a means to represent these crimes and commemorate the victims of ‘special children’s wards’ in Germany, Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic. This article shows that virtual traumascapes have contributed to a diverse landscape of memory concerning the murder of disabled children and youths described in five case studies. It also briefly discusses their impact on national memory regimes and the future of commemoration. 

4.3 World War 2.0: Commemorating War and Holocaust in Poland Through Facebook | Dieter De Bruyn 

The Internet seems to have become the area where instances of individual and collective remembrance, of private and public commemoration, and of memory and postmemory intersect in a new and effective way. This article explores two Polish examples of World War II and Holocaust commemoration that have recently been issued on Facebook: the Warsaw Rising commemorative campaign and the educational project on the young Holocaust victim Henio Zytomirski. As the analysis demonstrates, what determines the value of such online projects is their performative effectiveness. The examination of both examples aims to contribute to the current debate on cultural memory, in which the focus is increasingly on the dynamical and processual character of remembering, rather than on memory as a static product.

4.4 Past Wars in the Russian Blogosphere: On the Emergence of Cosmopolitan Memory | Elena Trubina 

In Russia, for decades, the collective memory of World War II has served two major functions. It has provided the major source of legitimatising the state and the ethical ground for sustaining the collective identity of those whose country now is very different from the one defended by their grandparents. Along with the state-imposed versions of the war and tired rituals and clichéd expressions of pride and gratitude, new ways of reflecting on the war began emerging. These are facilitated by new socio-technical practices made possible by globalisation and, in particular, by the Internet. Based on an analysis of selected Russian-language blogs, this article argues that although the nationalistic master narratives continue to function as glue for the nation, they become combined with stories and recollections that are attuned to the growing openness and interconnectedness of the world, problematising exclusionary renderings of the country’s contribution to the victory.

4.5 Deadly Game along the Wistula: East European Imagery in Oshii’s ‘Avalon’ (2001) | Gérard Kraus 

Mamoru Oshii’s Avalon stands firmly engrained in the director’s science fiction oeuvre of completely visually controlled films, focusing on a strong female protagonist shown in critical situations. At the same time the film marks Oshii’s return to live action cinema and takes him outside of Asia. This essay seeks to combine biographical information on the director with an aesthetic analysis of some of the images created for the purpose of this film. In particular the essay addresses Oshii’s interests in the relations between futuristic technologies and militarised societies, and his use of Polish and Eastern European imagery. I will argue that their combination can be seen as remediating and recontextualising images of war and conflict for a new generation that, through digital media, has developed a new dynamic relationship with history and the conflicts that build Europe and the world.

4.6 Oshii’s ‘Avalon’ (2001) and Military-Entertainment Technoculture | Patrick Crogan 

This essay takes Mamoru Oshii’s Avalon (2001) as a starting point for consideration of the impact of simulational interactive media on contemporary technoculture. The connections made in the film between virtual reality games and military research and development, and its quasi-simulational modelling of various historical ‘Polands’ in re-sequencing a dystopian end of history are the most valuable resources it brings to this study of how simulation’s predominant development represents a major challenge to the forms of critical cultural reflection associated with narrative-based forms of recording and interrogating experience. Analysis of the methods and rhetorics of simulation design in the military-industrial (and now military-entertainment) complex will elaborate the nature and stakes of this challenge for today’s globalising technoculture of ‘militainment’.

4.7 ‘The Weight of Meaninglessness’ | Naida Zukić 

The Weight of Meaninglessness is a video performance that evokes the atrocities of the recent Bosnian history in an effort to highlight the ethical urgencies, complexities and paradoxes of externalising trauma within a site that collapses meaning and creates possibilities for the return of traumatic memory. The performance shows the artist violently and continuously scrubbing clean her permanently marked arm, withstanding bodily pain and struggling to breathe. The video also confronts the viewer with Srebrenica Genocide; the images of mass graves render the memory of the atrocity traumatising in its insufferable intensity. In the moment of examining trauma and locating its agency, the artist lays bare the paradox of violent memories that can only be externalised through inflicting violence on oneself. The artist’s essay addresses the historical and ideological conditions under which The Weight of Meaninglessness critiques and exercises violence.

4.8 ‘Roma Snapshots: A Day in Sarajevo’ | Vanja Čelebičić 

The recent war in Bosnia-Herzegovina serves as an undercurrent in this short ethnographic film Roma Snapshots: a Day in Sarajevo. The film attempts to enquire into Sarajevan Roma’s sense of identification, belonging and memory. It portrays the daily lives of Roma through snapshots of their concurrent realities, where painful memories, laughter and religious beliefs exist side by side. The film comprises of simultaneous screening of four episodes, drawing attention to the filmmaker’s dilemma of how to best represent her subjects and which aspects of their lives to highlight. The film addresses visual anthropology’s concerns regarding ways of portraying reality and challenges the standard narrative approach to documentary filmmaking. Roma Snapshots: a Day in Sarajevo is accompanied by the filmmaker’s reflexive essay on anthropological filmmaking, digital media and life in post-war zones.

4.9 The Portrayal of Russian Hackers During Cyber Conflict Incidents | Athina Karatzogianni 

This article analyses various cyber conflicts and cyber crime incidents attributed to Russian hackers, such as the Estonian and Georgian cyber conflicts and the ‘Climategate hack’. The article argues that Russian hackers were blamed by dozens of outlets for the Climategate hack, because that was consistent with global media coverage of cyber crime incidents which portrayed Russians as highly powerful hackers responsible for many hacking incidents. This narrative also was congruent with the new Cold War rhetoric that consistently takes issue with Russia acting on its geopolitical interests. These interests are seen to manifest themselves in Russia’s objection to countries, formerly under its influence, participating in the NATO alliance and its seemingly obstructive stance at the Copenhagen summit on climate change. 

4.10 A Study on a Russian-American Non-Reflexive Discourse | Olga Baysha 

This study investigates one such case study – the outburst of anti-Americanism among Russia Internet users during the Russia-Georgia military crisis of 2008. The paper analyzes the discussions of Washington Post articles at the Washington PostForeign Media Russian Internet site. The study shows that, despite numerous attempts by Russian users to deliver their messages to the American readers, their postings were ignored by the American users and global dialogue did not occur. It is this exclusion from the conversation, together with the denigration of Russia by writers in the United States that led to the intensification of anti-American sentiments among the Russians. The study makes clear that for the establishment of effective global public spheres access to new communication technologies and knowledge of English are inadequate, unless accompanied by the willingness to listen to others and a desire to understand them.   

4.11 Web Wars: Digital Diasporas and the Language of Memory | Ellen Rutten 

Web Wars: Digital Diasporas and the Language of Memory in Russia & Ukraine is a three-year research project within the collaborative HERA-funded project Memory at War: Cultural Dynamics in Russia, Poland & Ukraine. Led by Dr Alexander Etkind (Cambridge University), this project zeroes in on the ongoing memory wars between Russia, Ukraine, and Poland – nations where political conflicts take the shape of heated debates about the recent past. For Memory at War, five European universities – Cambridge, Helsinki, Tartu, Groningen and Bergen – cooperate to scrutinize Eastern Europe’s memory wars from varying angles. Web Wars is the Bergen pendant, which focuses on their outlines in digital media, and Russian and Ukrainian social media in particular. This submission maps the project design, methods and research objectives.

4.12 Book Reviews

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