Sublime Lessons: Education and Ambivalence in War Exhibitions

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    26 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper examines how experiences of the sublime are regulated in the war exhibitions of modern museums. Ambivalence is a key feature of the sublime because subjects are forced to negotiate simultaneous feelings of terror and awe in the face of something unrepresentable like war. This paper analyses how war exhibitions dispel ambivalence by resuscitating a Kantian sublime full of resolution, catharsis and transcendence. In this context, potentially destabilising encounters with horrific objects (e.g. guns, bombs, shrapnel) are neutralised by didactic 'Lessons of War' and celebratory narratives of victory. Using examples from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Imperial War Museum in London and the Smithsonian Institution, this paper illustrates how conventional war exhibitions reproduce a politics of consensus by carefully managing the experience of the sublime.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)841-862
    Number of pages22
    Volume34 (3)
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2006

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations


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