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Published on: 1 May 2018

From violence towards the extreme: discourses, representations and practices of violence among combatants 


 Montreal, 22-23 October 2018 

The ambition of this colloquium is to question the specificity of violence amongst the military. It thus bases its reflections at the intersection of two historiographies in full renewal; that of war studies on one hand, and that of violence on the other hand. Unlike violence in civilian societies, violence amid combatants and notably its professional aspects have been little addressed in recent historical works. However, military personnel, more than any other social group, maintain a particular relation with violence. Though it may it be physical, verbal, psychological, or even symbolic, violence can be integral to their condition and can be delivered onto many groups such as combatants, civilians, or even the environment. Its forms, manifestations and meanings may differ according to eras, places and conflicts. The discourses and practices of violence are thus determined and reinterpreted through the prism of martial, social and cultural norms in which they insert themselves. In this way violence finds its place at the heart of social interactions. 

Advances in sociology, psychology or even anthropology have all contributed to the renewal of questionings and methods of the historian, opening up new challenges in the comprehension of violent acts. This colloquium therefore proposes to continue the reflections initiated by historians of war studies in the specific field of martial violence. How should we think about this violence? What place does it take in the combatants’ psyches? What mechanisms lead to the adoption of violent behaviour? In what way do military, social, and cultural representations influence the practice of violence, the 

understanding of professional violence and the means to regulate them? What are the contributions of other social fields to the historical understanding of military violence? 

At the crossroads of these reflections, the research proposals can be seen under a few general guidelines: 

- Thinking the link between military personnel and civil society; 

- Exploring the expression of violence and its role in the experience of war; 

- Observing the link between military justice and violence; 

- Defining violence in the rules of war; 

- Deepening the methods of understanding violence. 


This colloquium, organized with the support of UQÀM, the University of Montreal, the University of McGill, the GRHS and the CIREM, seeks interdisciplinarity and is open to all proposals related to the study of wartime violence, and to all young researchers (masters and PhDs) from any field in the social sciences. The themes suggested above are not exhaustive and the colloquium is open to receive all proposals on the subject. 

Proposals can be written in either french or english (300 words maximum) and must be sent in before the 15th of June 2018 at midnight to the following address: colloque.hm@gmail.com. These must contain your name, surname and institutional affiliation, a short biographical presentation and should indicate any needs for financial support for travel and accommodation as well as the estimate of travel costs. The colloquium will take place at the theatre of the McCord-Stewart Museum. 

Scientific committee: Patrick Baker (Université Laval), Benjamin Deruelle (UQÀM), Marie-Michèle Doucet (CMR Kingston), John A. Lynn (University of Illinois), Giovanni Ricci (Università degli Studi di Ferrara) Laurent Vissière (Université Paris-Sorbonne), Thomas Wien (Université de Montréal) 

Organizing committee: Nicolas Handfield et Philipp Portelance 

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