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‘Photography and the Languages of Reconstruction after the Second World War, 1944-49’ took place on 12 April 2019 at Cardiff University. The symposium was organised with the support of the Learned Society of Wales, the Institute of Modern Languages Research and Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Culture and School of Modern Languages.

The symposium explored transnational perspectives on photography of the Second World War and interrogated how photography challenged national and/or linguistic boundaries in representing the immediate post-war processes of reconstruction. The event highlighted three pathways that were used to explore the role of photography in post-war reconstruction: cultural encounters and humanitarian responses to war; borders and bodies; and deconstructing empire. Speakers explored topics ranging from the representation of displaced peoples camps in Allied-occupied Germany to picturing the Red Army’s demobilisation in Soviet Russia to the role of psychology and photography in the rehabilitation of orphans in post-war Britain. The symposium ended with a final session on the role of Europe’s archives in challenging East/West narratives of the immediate post-war period and a roundtable discussion on the practice and theory of photography and war with colleagues whose work straddled translation studies, memory studies and media studies. Speakers came from universities in the UK, Belgium and Australia, providing perspectives on the past and present of photography and war that were truly global.

The organisers would like to thank the Learned Society of Wales and the Institute of Modern Languages Research most warmly for their support for this event. We are planning a journal special issue to take forward the research collaborations initiated in the event. A pendent museum-based event with curators and archivists is planned for late 2019.

Organisers and speakers at the conference

Claire Gorrara and Tom Albeson, Cardiff University