“The Trophies of Their Wars” : Affect and Encounter at the Canadian War Museum

"Somalia Without Conscience" Gertrude Kearns painting

A workshop with Sara Matthews

Friday, March 2, 2012, 1:00-3:00

In this presentation I invite participants to engage with a fictive exhibit that brings together two objects currently on display at the Canadian War Museum: a black Mercedes-Benz bulletproof limousine that was once used by Hilter as a parade car, and Gertrude Kearns (1996) painting Somalia Without Conscience, an image that depicts Master Corporal Clayton Matchee (of the now disbanded Canadian Airborne Regiment) posing beside tortured Somali teenager Shidane Arone. I draw from narratives of public engagement with these two objects in the Museum to consider how they interrupt the “frames of recognition” (Butler 2009) through which we encounter representations of social violence and war. I also suggest a method for interpreting narratives of public encounter in the context of cultural analysis (Bal 2002, 2009). The following questions are raised: What happens to our interpretation of these two cultural objects when they are placed in juxtaposition and framed by the concept of the war trophy? And, what can the practice of collecting trophies of war mean in the pedagogical context of a war museum?

Sara Matthews is Assistant Professor of Culture and Conflict in the Department of Global Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. Her interdisciplinary work explores the dynamics of social conflict and reparation from the standpoint of how individuals and communities remember and learn from traumatic historical events. Matthews´ current research considers how contemporary Canadian war artists are responding to Canada´s mission in Afghanistan.

Please RSVP to Monica Patterson at <mepatter@umich.edu> to receive copies of the readings.

Center for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence