War and the Narratives of Britishness: Representations and Commemorations of the Afghanistan Conflict in Britain (2001-2014)

25/10/2017, 15:30 - 17:00


A seminar as part of the Conflict, Disaster and Development research theme at the School of Modern Languages with Dr Beatrice Blanchet, Lecturer at the UCLy (Lyon, France) and Honorary Research Fellow of the School of Modern Languages (Cardiff University).

The war in Afghanistan (2001-2014) opposed the British forces (under Nato command) to an invisible and elusive antagonist, named interchangeably ‘The Taliban’, ‘al-Qaeda’, ‘militants’ and ‘insurgents’ opposing the rule of law. Such semantic indetermination of media and political discourses when it comes to describing the enemy reveals the complex imaginative geographies of Afghanistan in contemporary Britain.
In the early 21st century, the intervention of the British army drew upon the experience and knowledge gained during colonial encounters and conflicts such as the Anglo-Afghan wars (1839-1919) which identified the Afghan as a paradigmatic Other. In the aftermath of 9/11, actualised orientalist tropes aimed to provide intelligibility out of the chaotic post-Cold War era while remapping symbolic and geographical boundaries. In doing so, they obliterate the contemporary geopolitical interests of the Western powers in Central Asia. The enduring power of the essentialist representations of lawlessness and tribal violence in the so-called ‘graveyard of Empires’ has contributed to the failure of development and peacekeeping objectives on the ground, as Afghanistan still largely remains a terra incognita.

Dr Blanchet was Lecturer in French Studies in the School from 2009 to 2011 and has also worked in Science-Po Aix, the Institute for American Universities in Aix-en-Provence and the University of Bath. Dr Blanchet graduated from the Institut d’études politiques (Aix-en-Provence), and completed her Ph.D in comparative politics at Oxford (Bourse Lavoisier) and Cambridge University.

Dr Blanchet has published in leading journals including Modern and Contemporary France and the Journal of European Studies as well as contributing chapters to books and a monograph La Toge et la Tribune. Dr Blanchet’s areas of expertise include translation studies, modern and contemporary French history, French politics and French as a second language.

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Conflict, Development and Disaster Seminar Series