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February 20, 2019, 5:00 pm6:30 pm

Civic Arts Series, “Bringing the War Home”: Visual Aftermaths and Domestic Disturbances in the Era of Modern Warfare

Caren Kaplan

Wednesday, Feb 20, 2019
5-6:30 pm | MIT Building 4, room 270

Part of the New Media and Civic Arts Series, hosted with Comparative Media Studies

Introduction by Lisa Parks, Professor, CMS/W

At the close of the First Gulf War, feminist architectural historian Beatriz Colomina wrote that “war today speaks about the difficulty of establishing the limits of domestic space.” That conflict of 1990-91 is most often cited as the first to pull the waging of war fully into the digital age and therefore into a blurring of boundaries of all kinds. Yet, most modern wars have introduced technological innovations that transform social relations and modes of communication and representation. In this paper I want to focus on a period that includes the Vietnam War (1955-1975) and extends into the “War on Terror” through a consideration of Martha Rosler’s photo collage series “House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home” (1967-2004). The technique of collage reinforces the artist’s emphatic effort to bring together seemingly incommensurable elements—images of exquisite domestic interiors, glamourous consumer commodities, and landscapes and bodies damaged by warfare. Literally bringing wars waged by the United States throughout this long durée into the hyper commodified environment of fashion layouts and magazine advertisement, Rosler demonstrates the impossibility of limiting domestic space, an impossibility that challenges representation across genres and practices—televisual, photographic, cinematic, social media, analogue, digital, etc. Such disturbances of “here” and “there,” “now” and “then,” resonate as powerful “aftermaths” of wars visible and invisible, always already underway.

Caren Kaplan is Professor of American Studies and affiliated faculty in Cultural Studies and Science and Technology Studies. She is the author of Aerial Aftermaths: Wartime from Above (Duke 2017) and  Questions of Travel: Postmodern Discourses of Displacement (Duke 1996) and the co-author/editor of Life in the Age of Drone Warfare (Duke 2017), Introduction to Women’s Studies: Gender in a Transnational World (McGraw-Hill 2001/2005), Between Woman and Nation: Transnational Feminisms and the State (Duke 1999), and Scattered Hegemonies: Postmodernity and Transnational Feminist Practices (Minnesota 1994), as well as two digital multi-media scholarly works, Dead Reckoning (2007) and Precision Targets (2010).


Event Sponsors: ACT, GMTaC Lab, CMS/W Colloquium  CMS Department Colloquium, and Civic Arts Lecture Series