CFP: Wonder Women & Rebel Girls (deadline 6/15)

illustration of fictional and historical warrior women

4th September 2020

Centre for War Studies, University College Dublin

Online Workshop

Keynote: Dr Emma Butcher (University of Leicester)

War Girls: Youthful Soldiers and Writers in the Age of Modern War’ (provisional title)

The explosive popularity of recent films such as Wonder Woman (2017) and initiatives like Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls (2016; 2018) reflects a growing appetite in today’s media for depictions of women on the front lines, ‘strong’ female action heroes taking up roles other than victim, girlfriend, or grieving widow. At the same time, however, the waging of war off-screen continues to test the limits of policies of gender equality, with women’s admission to combat positions in the military only granted in the last few years in many countries and opposition to it remaining widespread. The complex interaction between media representation and reality in the sphere of women and war has a long history. Women have been formally excluded from western armies for centuries, including an outright ban on women soldiers in Revolutionary France in the 1790s, and marginalized in military history. Beneath the surface, of course, exceptions are everywhere: from joining armies in disguise to winning open acceptance, women have taken part in innumerable conflicts across the world throughout history, but the narratives around their roles remain contested. Women soldiers’ tales are more often seen as semi-fictional sources than authoritative pieces of military history; scholarship on women’s participation in war remains separate from general surveys of conflict; historical depictions of women who fight have rarely been studied in comparison with those of today.

This workshop therefore aims to explore the unfolding contemporary phenomenon of women warriors on screen and in print within a larger historical context, from the early 18th century onwards, and in any geographical context. While the focus of the workshop is on women who took up arms, papers could also explore the blurred boundaries of women’s war experience through time, reflecting on the multiple auxiliary ways in which they have participated. For the purposes of this workshop, the definition of ‘women’ includes anyone identifying as such. Suggested themes include:

  • Autobiographical and biographical accounts, photography, film, literature and journalism about and by female soldiers, fighters or combatants, broadly defined, both fictional and non-fictional, and the reception these received
  • Challenges of telling women’s stories today, whether in scholarship, media, or museums
  • Commemoration, celebration and/or criticism of women at war, both in state military bodies and armed insurrections, terrorism or guerrilla warfare
  • Connections between discourse about female fighters and actual opportunities in the military, or the legal and political status of women and girls
  • Definitions, e.g. ‘warrior’ vs. ‘soldier’, and the connotations attached to each
  • Propaganda, symbolism and allegory
  • Women and girls as producers and consumers of media about war

Submissions are particularly welcome from PhD students and ECRs, and from scholars in all relevant disciplines, as well as heritage professionals, journalists, broadcasters, and writers.

Guidelines for submission:

This is an online workshop, which will take place over the course of one day on GMT+1. Please indicate your time zone when applying, so that we can adapt the schedule accordingly. Speakers will be asked to pre-record their papers (of max. 20 minutes each), and we plan to offer you the support of a professional video editor to produce a high-quality version of your talk, which with your permission will then be shared online after the event. Efforts will be made throughout to offer as many informal networking opportunities as possible, including an optional social activity in the evening.

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words, plus a short biographical note, to by 15 June (extended from 5 June).  

Further questions can be directed to Dr. Matilda Greig, UCD Centre for War Studie (matilda.greig [at] ucd [dot] ie).