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Visualizing War, Visualizing Fascism: Film and Photography in Germany and Japan

Julia Adeney Thomas, University of Notre Dame and Geoff Eley, University of Michigan
Thursday, May 8, 2014 - 3:30pm
Communications Building 120

Visualizing War, Visualizing Fascism: Film and Photography in Germany and Japan

A purely technological history of photography and film would explain why World War II was recorded so copiously and vividly in contrast to earlier conflicts, but the development of handheld cameras (like the Leica created in 1925), advances in film technology (including sound), and better means of transmitting images for publication via wire do not explain how war came to be seen either during the conflict or in retrospect.

These two talks address some the cultural complexities of visualizing war in Germany, Italy, and Japan during the 1930s-40s, raising the political, aesthetic, and ethical quandaries posed by trying to see combat and glory, death, and destruction contemporaneously and retrospectively:

  • "The State of Unexception: Japan's War without Pictures"
    • Julia Adeney Thomas (Professor of History, University of Notre Dame) 

Bringing critical theory to bear on questions of power in modern societies, Julia Adeney Thomas investigates concepts of nature in Japanese political ideology, the impact of environmental history on historiography, and photography as a political practice. Her book, Reconfiguring Modernity, received the John K. Fairbank Prize from the American Historical Association in 2002 and her essay on wartime memory in Japan, "Photography, National Identity, and the 'Cataract of Times:' Wartime Images and the Case of Japan" in the American Historical Review received the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians' Best Article of the Year Award in 1999.

Before joining the faculty at Notre Dame, Julia Adeney Thomas taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Wisconsin, where she received tenure in 2001. She has also been a visiting scholar at the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte in Berlin, the Universität Heidelberg, and the University of Michigan as well as a member of the University of Wisconsin Humanities Institute and of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

  • "Questioning the Fascist Spectacle"
    • Geoff Eley (Karl Pohrt Distinguished University Professor of Contemporary History, University of Michigan) 

Geoff Eley is the Karl Pohrt Distinguished University Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Michigan. He studied history at the Balliol College of Oxford University and received his PhD from the University of Sussex in 1974. His book Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe, 1850-2000 has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Serbian, Korean, Turkish and Greek. His most recent book is a collection of essays on fascism called Nazism as Fascism: Violence, Ideology, and the Ground of Consent in Germany, 1930-1945 (Routledge Press 2013.)


This event is co-sponsored by the UW Japan Studies Program, Simpson Center for Humanities, and the Departments of History and Germanics. For more information, contact