​​​​​​2016 ISSEI conference 

The University of Lodz, Poland

Workshop: The Linguistic and Cultural Manifestations of War and Terrorism

Chairs: Ruvik Rosenthal, The Open University of Israel, ruvikr@netvision.net.il and Ryszard Machnikowski, British and Commonwealth Studies Chair, University of Lodz, Poland, rmachnikowski@gmail.com

Wars affect our language and culture in many different ways. They affect the way we live and the way we think and speak. They often change and enrich our vocabularies and idioms, our characteristic forms of speech and sometimes the very grammar of our native tongue. Despite the horrors of war, their ever-more efficient means of destruction, and the drastic socio-political changes they bring in their wake, wars and the soldier’s life continue to inspire our art, our cultural debates and thought.

If we cast a brief look at the wars fought in Europe in the twentieth century alone, we see how deeply they have affected its culture. In 2014 the world marked the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, also known as The Great War. Although many hoped that this war would end all wars, within three decades Europe and the world plunged into the Second World War and the Holocaust, leading to the death of tens of millions and physical destruction on an unimaginable scale. The two world wars were followed by the Cold War, which appeared to have changed the nature of war yet failed to bring enduring peace. The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s led to massive geopolitical and cultural changes in Europe and beyond it. The Kosovo Conflict of 1998-99 and the current crisis in Ukraine have raised the spectre of a new Cold War. Not far from the shores of Europe lie the countries of the Maghreb and the Middle East, the borders of which were drawn by the leading European powers in the first half of the twentieth century. As postcolonial states several of these countries have been the scene of civil wars, military coups, ongoing conflicts among neighboring states, and in more recent times the scene of protracted wars, foreign military interventions, and major political upheavals. 

Yet we cannot speak of war without considering what is today perceived as the primary threat to Europe’s security: Terrorism. Although the continent has experienced such threats before and is aware of the various hostile minorities standing behind earlier and more recent terrorist events, the November 2015  attacks in Paris seem to have changed the public perceptions of political violence.  President Hollande described the events as an “act of war,” in which, he added, “French people attacked French people.” Yet the immediate military response of the French government was to extend its airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and to call upon other nations  to join the campaign. It is clear that terrorist attacks in Europe may generate a political backlash that leads to far-reaching political transformations, partly because “terrorism” creates a great deal of confusion and intellectual anxiety. How, then, should we analyse this phenomenon today? Which tools would be useful to disentangle the numerous ambiguities involved in studying terrorism and other forms of political violence?  Are we witnessing what Walter Laqueur, one of the leading historians of political extremism and radicalism described as “The Last Days of Europe”? And what more precisely is the relationship between his prediction about the decline of the Old Continent and the current security threats to Europe?          

 The aim of this workshop is to explore the linguistic and cultural aspects of war and terrorism. More specifically, the workshop will focus on (1) the culture of war; (2) art and war/terrorism (literature, drama, films, the plastic arts, music); (3) the language of war; and (4) military parlance: between officers and soldiers.

Please submit a 350–500 word abstract to Ruvik Rosenthal, at ruvikr@netvision.net.il and to Ryszard Machnikowski, at rmachnikowski@gmail.com