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Nation, Memory and Great War Commemoration

Mobilizing the Past in Europe, Australia and New Zealand


Shanti Sumartojo and Ben Wellings

The Great War continues to play a prominent role in contemporary consciousness. With commemorative activities involving seventy-two countries, its centenary is a titanic undertaking: not only ‘the centenary to end all centenaries’ but the first truly global period of remembrance.
In this innovative volume, the authors examine First World War commemoration in an international, multidisciplinary and comparative context. The contributions draw on history, politics, geography, cultural studies and sociology to interrogate the continuities and tensions that have shaped national commemoration and the social and political forces that condition this unique international event. New studies of Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific address the relationship between increasingly fractured grand narratives of history and the renewed role of the state in mediating between individual and collective memories. Released to coincide with the beginning of the 2014–2018 centenary period, this collection illuminates the fluid and often contested relationships amongst nation, history and memory in Great War commemoration.
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Anzac Kinship and National Identity on the Australian Remembrance Trail



The Australian Remembrance Trail (ART) stretches from Ypres in Belgium, to the battlefields of the Somme in northern France. A coherent line of discrete sites on a map, the Trail has been the focus of Australian government funding in anticipation of large numbers of Anzac ‘pilgrims’ visiting the area during the Great War centenary commemorative period that begins in 2014. At once a tourist attraction and the locus of memorial diplomacy and ‘people-to-people’ links, the Trail is an important site of national remembrance and a means by which Anzac national identity is constructed, reinforced and performed.

This chapter explores how the ART conditions manifestations of ‘Australianness’. It illustrates how commemorative practices within the sites’ material environments help shape Anzac nationalism and how this is understood by an audience already primed as a national one. This analysis includes both ‘top-down’ official practices and ‘from-below’ vernacular ones that augment each other to make the sites powerful locations for reinforcing a version of Australian national identity based on ‘values’ linked to martial service and sacrifice. Furthermore, these practices are enhanced by commemorative performances that fold events at the sites into larger narratives of Australians as members of the same national ‘family’ and also infuse individual family histories with national narratives.

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