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Peace, War: Making Pasts Beyond Borders, 1st Edition

This book examines the phenomenon of modern memory as a reaction to total war, an aspiration to truth-seeking provoked by the independent forces of modern war and collective violence which is transnational, or postnational, in character. Using examples from prose and poetry, film and theatre, painting and photography, and music and the popular arts, the author traces a narrative path through the events of the 20th century, defining the tradition of modern memory in terms of its essentially anti-militaristic, anti-war character, as expressed in the manner in which it represents recalled violence and atrocity. Through a series of thematic discussions of two world wars, the Shoah, urbicide and nuclear weapons, Postnational Memory explores the formation of transnational memory, drawing on examples from industrialised societies, with a focus on memory of real events and their reproduction in literature and the arts, often including personal recollections that link the self to the represented past. As such, by asking how the concept of modern memory is constructed through the victims of war and genocide, the book constitutes an alternative to national memories and hegemonic, militarist or ethnocentric histories. Surveying the emergence of new, transnational forms of remembering the past, it will appeal to students and scholars of sociology, memory studies and peace studies, as well as those working in disciplines such as modern and international history, cultural studies and military studies.

 Nigel Young’s rich tapestry of words, images and reflections leads us to understand how the total wars of the 20th century have shaped and changed our  modern sense of memory.  He shows how the shattering experiences of two world wars — and of the genocides, annihilations, crimes against humanity and the first use of nuclear weapons which accompanied them —  have been dealt with in different ways.  Some memories have been suppressed, some have emerged from long silence, and many have been variously interpreted and re-interpreted over the decades. They have also generated powerful art (vividly illustrated here), journalism and literature. Memory has moved from the private to the public sphere,  developing new transnational  forms to challenge the orthodoxies of nationalism and hegemonism.  This is a book which invites us to revisit both the past and the present with searching questions about the impact of war on modern human consciousness.



John Gittings, author of  The Glorious Art of Peace: Paths to peace in a new age of war.    @TheCaseforPeace 

Nigel Young’s challenging and interesting book draws on his wisdom and deep experience. It’s very much a work of personal witness, most notably in the book’s numerous vignettes and examples. These explore not only war poetry, literature, museums, memorials, paintings, musical requiems and so forth; but also more popular arts, like wall murals, songs, journalism and popular theatre, novels and films. 


The book tells us not only to persist in telling the truth about war and militarism, but also to engage with diverse forms of ‘counter-memorialisation’: that is, new ways of tapping historical memory; new ways of identifying how war has been resisted and spaces for peace have been opened; and new ways of imagining alternative more peaceful futures.  


The memorialisation of war and critique of its horrors. Young deals with universal themes, but approaches them via the memorialisation of war in the past century since World War I. In particular he focuses on how critiques of war have sharpened and gathered momentum during the modern era of industrialised warfare, mass destruction and global military intervention.       


At the same time “postnational memory” is a prolonged reflection upon our troubled relationship with history. It builds a sustained critique of the nexus between militaristic and nationalistic versions of historical memory. And it navigates skilfully through deep contradictions that beset historical memory.

Reflections on Nigel Young: Post-national Memory, Peace and War: Making Pasts Beyond Borders  

Dr. Robin Luckham, Institute of Development Studies, Unversity Sussex 



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