The Politics of the Past: Great War Commemoration in International Perspective

This international symposium took place at the Australian National University from 26-27 April 2012 and was hosted by the School of Politics and International Relations and the ANU Centre for European Studies. It brought together researchers from France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand with a common interest in Great War Commemoration who gathered in Canberra to observe the annual Anzac Day commemoration.

No discussion of Australian national identity today can avoid the memory of Australia’s fighting forces. Anzac Day has grown to be a remarkable cultural and political phenomenon in the past two decades, making 25 April a quasi-official independence day.    The increasing popularity of the anniversary and the intensification in its promotion by Australian governments is well-documented.  However, little has scholarly work has been done to place our understanding of Anzac in an international, comparative perspective.

With the centenary of the Great War only two years away, the symposium sought to address this gap in our understanding.  Participants set out to situate the recent resurgence of the Anzac legend within a wider international field of enquiry, with the aim of deepening our understanding of the global and domestic importance of this narrative ahead of the Great War centenaries of 1914-1918.  Papers drew on politics, history, sociology and international relations, exploring and analysing the distinctions and intersections between debates about the past in Australia and Europe.

The symposium was organised with support from the Embassy of France in Canberra.

Ben Wellings & Shanti Sumartojo (ANU)

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