Call for Papers: Sensing War

28 November 2013

University of Westminster flag

International Interdisciplinary Conference, 12-13 June 2014. London, UK.

War is a crucible of sensory experience and its lived effects radically transform ways of being in the world. It is prosecuted, lived and reproduced through a panoply of sensory apprehensions, practices and ‘sensate regimes of war’ (Judith Butler 2012) – from the tightly choreographed rhythms of patrol to the hallucinatory suspicions of night vision; from the ominous mosquito buzz of drones to the invasive scrape of force-feeding tubes; from the remediation of visceral helmetcam footage to the anxious tremors of the IED detector; from the desperate urgencies of triage to the precarious intimacies of care; from the playful grasp of children’s war-toys to the feel of cold sweat on a veteran’s skin.
Recognising the recent growth of ground-breaking work on the senses across the humanities and social sciences, Sensing War aims to bring together researchers from a wide variety of disciplines to foster creative dialogue and critical exploration of the multiple and shifting relationships between war and sensation. What concepts, resources and methods does the sensuous turn in scholarship offer to further our understandings of the myriad experiences of war and militarism? How is war sensed by and for the drone operator, the occupied population, the female engagement team, the insurgent, the medic, the refugee, the veteran, the military family, the arms fair delegate, the war tourist, the video-gamer, the artist? As war continuously shape-shifts, bleeding across the global flows of late modernity, how might attentiveness to sensory experience help us to rethink its genealogy and ontology? How might we enable innovative and critical sensory engagements with war that allow us to see, hear, sense and understand it anew?
We invite contributions that engage with the topic of Sensing War widely and creatively. Potential themes may include, but are not limited to:

  • Sensing bodies, technologies and environments of war
  • Sensory and scopic regimes and counter-regimes of war
  • The militarization of sensation
  • War politics and the distribution of the sensible
  • Military orientalism, the colonial nervous system and the empire of the senses
  • Touch/smell/sound/vision/tastes of war
  • Rhythms, movements and kinaesthetics of war
  • The sensory and affective grammar of everyday life in wartime
  • Sensuous war/play
  • Sensation-seeking, extremity, craving and addiction in warfighting
  • Sensing the shadows of war
  • Sensory resonances and aftermaths of war
  • Gender, class, race, sexuality, disability and sensations of war
  • War sensation and activist practice
  • Doing sensuous ethnographies, sociologies, geographies and histories of war

Please send paper abstracts (max 500 words), or details of other proposed contributions, together with brief biographical details, by 14th February 2014 to [email protected]
All proposals are subject to a review process. We aim to publish selected papers from the conference as a special themed issue of a relevant journal and an edited collection.
Please address any other queries to Kevin McSorley: [email protected]


Academic Committee
Kevin McSorley, Sociology, University of Portsmouth
Debbie Lisle, International Relations, Queens University Belfast
Tara Woodyer, Geography, University of Portsmouth
Holger Pötzsch, Media & Culture, University of Tromsø
Joseph Burridge, Sociology, University of Portsmouth

About the University of Westminster:

The University of Westminster boasts a vibrant learning environment attracting more than 20,000 students from over 150 nations and we continue to invest in our future with new developments, research projects and new ideas.

We offer highly attractive practice-based courses that are independently rated as excellent, many with international recognition. Our distinguished 180-year history has meant we lead the way in many areas of research, particularly politics, media, art and design, architecture and biomedical sciences, and our position in the city of London allows us to continue to build on our close connections with leading figures and organisations in these areas as well as in the worlds of business, information technology, politics and law.

Our commitment to educating graduates for the needs of professional life attracts high quality students from within the UK and around the globe.

Internationalisation, employability and sustainability are key elements in the University of Westminster’s vision for the future and we strive to ensure the very highest standards are met and maintained.

For the media

For the media

Here we hope you find everything you will need to research, write and publish your story or blog post.