Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dissent during the First World War Conference, 31 Aug - 2 Sep 2017

Thomas Moynihan, conscientious objector, Wanganui Detention Barracks 1918. Archives New Zealand

Hosted by the Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies and the Labour History Project, with support from The Ministry for Culture and Heritage, and The Archives and Records Association of NZ (ARANZ), this two day conference will cover a range of topics on dissent, and how the First World War divided New Zealand society in many ways. In the current commemorative climate little attention has been paid to the perceptions and actions of those who opposed the war. 

More information can be found on the Conference event page, and here is the Conference Programme (pdf).

I'll be speaking at the Conference on Friday morning, and chairing a session in the afternoon. Here's my abstract, which presents work from my forthcoming book:

A War of Words: Domestic Postal Censorship and Dissent
Most histories of the First World War recall the muddied horror of the Western Front. But there was also a war at home, complete with violence, hardship and bravery. It was a war of ideas, and a key weapon in the armoury of authority was censorship.

Between August 1914 and November 1920, over 1.2 million civilian letters were opened and examined by the New Zealand military. Some were stamped and sent on. Others made their way into the hands of Police Commissioners, leading to covert surveillance, dawn raids, arrests, and deportation.

Employing a microhistory approach to a secret collection of confiscated letters, this paper explores domestic postal censorship, state attitudes towards dissent, and the people whose letters were originally blocked by military command. It suggests that wartime censorship was rooted in a need for imposing class discipline and maintaining capitalist/statist relations during what was a potentially turbulent time. Like the phenomenon of disaster capitalism, this expanded and made permanent ways of monitoring dissent for years to come.

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