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Objects of WarThe Material Culture of Conflict and Displacement$
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Leora Auslander and Tara Zahra

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781501720079

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501720079.001.0001

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Small Escapes

Small Escapes

Gender, Class, and Material Culture in Great War Internment Camps

(p.164) 6 Small Escapes
Objects of War

Iris Rachamimov

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines the prisoner of war (POW) camps of the First World War that became the temporary homes of officers. POWs creatively sustained prewar class and gender roles through the production and use of domestic objects and clothing in internment camps. Indeed, letters of the POW officers portray almost without exception the attempts to structure daily activities according to civilian patterns. Amidst the uncertainties and dislocations of captivity, POW officers and civilian internees relied on artifacts to perform meaningful social scripts and deployed them to articulate a range of emotions and identities. Although these scripts had multiple collective and personal meanings, many of them were aimed at sustaining prewar notions of “normalcy,” “respectability,” and productive masculinity. However, because these social scripts emanated from the prewar bi-gender world, recreating them in one-gender settings often led to transgressions of respectable masculinity.

Keywords:   prisoner of war, POW camps, First World War, gender roles, prewar class, internment camps, domestic objects, POW officers, captivity, social scripts, masculinity

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