Institute Invites Veterans to Explore ‘Dialogues on the Experience of War’

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Next year, the Contemporary History Institute will present a series of three two-hour conversations about the experiences of coming home from combat for regional veterans. Each meeting will include discussion of various humanities sources that explore historical experiences of war, which will serve as a sort of jumping off point to allow for veterans and service members to discuss their own personal experiences with war and coming back home after their service.

The programming is entitled “Coming Home From War: Conversations For Veterans in Southern Ohio and the Appalachian Region,” and it is a part of the National Endowment For the Humanities’ “Dialogues On the Experience of War,” which is national programming that aims to support the “study and discussion of important humanity sources about war, in the belief that these sources can help U.S. military veterans and others think more deeply about the issues raised by war and military service.”

Contemporary History Institute director Dr. Ingo Trauschweizer, Dr. Nukhet Sandal, Associate Professor of Political Science and director of War and Peace Studies, and David Edwards, director of the Veterans and Military Student Services Center, have put together a group of 10 Ohio University faculty members and two consultants from outside of the university to train undergraduate and graduate students this semester to lead these conversations in January and February of next year.

The event’s Facebook states that the themes of these conversations will include “conceptions of masculinity, gender, and group identity; coping with traumas caused by combat and witnessing death and atrocities; and coping with the memory of killing.” The media utilized in these conversations will include everything from literature to poetry to drama and film. Veterans and service members will be asked to think about how these various humanities sources influence the way in which they see their own experiences.

“It seems to me, as an observer, that (many veterans) have the sense that their war and their generation was unique — and it’s true that every individual’s experience differs,” said Trauschweizer. “But there are some things (such as) losing one’s sense of purpose (at the end of the conflict), survivor’s guilt, having to redefine one’s sense of identity either as individual or in a group, dealing with trauma and the like that are found in the earliest sources we have about war in antiquity, to the present, that kind of recycle.”

Trauschweizer said he hopes that allowing veterans to see their experience through the lens of historical and artistic accounts of war experiences throughout the history of humanity may allow them to see them with added clarity, as well as allow a certain amount of distance necessary to discuss the experience of war in greater detail.

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