[CfP] Commemoration and Heritage: First World War Memorials and Cemeteries (Kraków, 1–3 June 2023)

Kamil Ruszala Discussion

Call for Papers

Commemoration and Heritage: First World War Memorials and Cemeteries

Kraków, 1–3 June 2023

Organiser: Critical Heritage Studies Hub at the Jagiellonian University & Institute of History, Jagiellonian University

Venue: Jagiellonian University, Kraków

Date: 1–3 June 2023 (Thursday–Saturday)

Application deadline: March 15, 2023

Form of abstracts: electronic file (doc, docx, pdf), up to 300 words

Working language: English


The First World War monuments, cemeteries, and memorials scattered across Europe testify to the bloody fighting and the lost lives. They have become part of the public space, the cultural landscape and, in retrospect, part of the heritage of specific regions. Across the European continent, these memorials are diverse. From the very beginning, policies of commemoration were differentiated, often even instrumentalised, whether by the Entente or the Central Powers, but also by the post-1918 states, often to deliver specific messages. These differences resulted not only from territorial involvement in the war effort (after all, monuments and cemeteries on former battlefields looked different from those in the hinterland), but also from the role of the state in the conflict and the use of the narrative of war in public space for political purposes. Thus, the sites served multiple functions. On the one hand, war cemeteries and the memorials located there were intended to bear witness to the dignified burial of fallen soldiers, in accordance with the principles of humanity. Similarly, they were also an expression of the commemoration of the fallen coming from a given community (micro-region), especially in areas where no hostilities occurred, although commemoration also remained problematic in areas with diverse nationalities. On the other hand, memorials were not infrequently an expression of political agendas, war propaganda, or political orientations. Over time, changes in war memorials and war cemeteries were noticeable – both in their physical form and in their cultural interpretation. As memorials were redefined, they changed the landscape and the space of remembrance; there are well-known examples of 'familiarisation' with 'foreign' monuments and cemeteries in the new political space or, going further, the adaptation of these objects to post–1945 realities.

In retrospect, whether speaking of war monuments and cemeteries or of their formation through the expression of the cult of fallen soldiers, mourning, commemoration, and the construction of a national and imperial mythology (albeit already in a post-imperial space), we are considering the heritage of war, both tangible and intangible, as both identity and as landscape.

Looking at these differences across the European continent will be of great value and the focus of the conference proceedings. The main assumption of the project is a comparative and transnational perspective, hence we encourage researchers from different centers and representing different disciplines (interdisciplinarity) to propose papers on the following topics:

  • the functioning of war grave systems 1914–1918 in Europe;
  • the creation of war memorials and memorials in Europe: their cultural interpretation, transmission and post-war histories (including redefinition/'recycling');
  • war memorials, cemeteries, and memorials and the commemoration perspective;
  • the cult of fallen soldiers in war memorials, memorials, and cemeteries;
  • institutional care of cemeteries and war memorials from the period of the war until after 1945 (organizations – people – meaning);
  • the role of World War I memorials in the interwar period and the formation of national attitudes and political and propaganda messages;
  • creators of cemeteries and monuments, sources of inspiration, and their analysis;
  • creation of war memorials and cemeteries as a project for further “colonization” at the end of empires;
  • physical landscape, historical, and artistic aspects of cemeteries and war memorials;
  • World War I memorials as heritage challenges and heritage theory.

The topics of the papers are not necessarily limited to the above points, but these outline a selection of the issues we will address during the conference.

The conference is organized as a launch event of the Research Cluster 'Heritage of War 1914–1918', which is part of the Critical Heritage Studies Hub at Jagiellonian University. A post-conference publication is planned as a project result. The event will be accompanied by a seminar on source studies in the archives in Krakow, presenting sources on World War I cemeteries and monuments as well as a tour of former World War I battlefield in Małopolska (Lesser-Poland).

Abstracts no longer than 300 words, along with contact information, name, and institutional affiliation, should be sent to magdalena.bubik@uj.edu.pl (conference secretary). The deadline for abstract submission is 1st March, 2023, and the full list of speakers will be announced before 15 March 2023. The conference will be held in Kraków in 1–3 June 2023.

The organizers will cover the cost of accommodation, conference materials, participation in the planned excursion, refreshments, and lunch. For technical reasons we cannot cover the transportation cost to Kraków.

Contact: Kamil Ruszała (Jagiellonian University): kamil.ruszala@uj.edu.pl

Conference secretary: magdalena.bubik@uj.edu.pl