A new interdisciplinary initiative at the University of South Alabama will support the newly-created Center for the Study of War and Memory.
The center’s inaugural event will be held Thursday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m. in Room 170, Humanities Building with Dr. Robert Rook, director of interdisciplinary studies at Towson University in Maryland. Rook will present “War, Memory, and Globalization: North Korea and Arab War Commemorations.”
The center’s purpose will be to study how communities, institutions, and nations make sense of past military events through public monuments, remembrance rituals, re-enactments, works of literature, movies, popular history programming, and the internet. Besides sponsoring lectures and conferences, the center eventually plans to publish a peer-reviewed journal.
Dr. Steven Trout, chair of English, will serve as director of the center.
Dr. G. David Johnson, senior vice president for academic affairs, said the center will also play an important role for military veterans in the area.
“Dr. Trout’s Center for War and Memory will make an outstanding contribution to the international study of the role of war remembrances in how citizens think about their nation and their own attitudes toward war and national security.” Johnson said. “It is very appropriate that such a center be located on our campus because of the significance of our nation’s conflicts to the history of our state and local community, as evidenced by Ken Burn’s documentary, “The War,” which featured the experiences of many Mobilians who fought in World War II. This center is already making a positive contribution to scholarship on this important topic.”
Dr. Andrzej Wierzbicki, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the center is especially unique for its sharing of knowledge across a variety of academic disciplines.
“Dr. Trout's idea was to develop an interdisciplinary center at USA which would involve faculty from the English, history, communication, psychology, and sociology departments,” Wierzbick said. “This center advances both the research and teaching missions of our University, and we are excited about the academic opportunities the center will bring to our students and faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences.”
“There is no scholarly resource like this anywhere in the world,” Trout said. “Several universities, including Southern Mississippi, have centers that examine broad subjects such as ‘war and society.’ Ours will be the only center to focus on military memorialization, an important and highly relevant topic since shared visions of past conflicts always influence the way that a culture thinks about the possibility of war in the present.”
In his presentation, Rook will draw on his field research at military memorials and museums located in the Middle East. He will consider how visual depictions of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (1948-1973) use art as an ideological weapon—as a continuation of battle by other means. In addition, his presentation explored the political and economic history of military commemoration in the three nations, noting the “globalization” of war memory through the involvement of artists from North Korea and Portugal.
Rook, who earned a doctorate in history from Kansas State University, has published widely on American diplomatic history and Arab studies, and he regularly participates in an educational program that places civilian academics, who are experts on history and contemporary international affairs, aboard deployed U.S. Navy vessels, where they provide briefings and lectures. Before pursuing his Ph.D., Rook lived and taught in the Middle East for 10 years.
Support for the event will be provided by the departments supporting the center as well as the College of Arts and Sciences and the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.