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

Lecture | February 13 | 12-2 p.m. | 370 Dwinelle Hall

 Caren Kaplan, Professor of American Studies, University of California, Davis

 Department of Gender and Women's Studies

'Feminist Studies and Visual Media' Spring 2019 Gender and Women’s Studies Lecture series
Cosponsored by Media Studies and Center for Race and Gender
Organized and Moderated by Professor Minoo Moallem

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.

Bio: Caren Kaplan is Professor of American Studies at the University of California at Davis. Her research draws on cultural geography, landscape art, and military history to explore the ways in which undeclared as well as declared wars produce representational practices of atmospheric politics. Selected publications include "Aerial Aftermaths: Wartime from Above" (Duke 2018), "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), "Questions of Travel: Postmodern Discourses of Displacement" (Duke 1996) "Scattered Hegemonies: Postmodernity and Transnational Feminist Practices" (Minnesota 1994) as well as two major multi-media scholarly works, "Dead Reckoning" and "Precision Targets".

Event co-sponsored by the College of Environmental Design
Funding provided by the Chau Hoi Shuen Foundation Fund in Gender and Women's Studies