Craft and War

Jennifer Way, University of North Texas

This session investigates relationships of craft and war and considers how they compel a reappraisal of central themes in craft history. We may not readily identify craft as a cultural form long associated with war. Nevertheless, since its emergence during the 19th century as a hand-based fabrication valued especially for its differences from machine-made goods, craft has been involved with civil and foreign wars, cold wars, and police and military actions.

Together, papers in this session revisit craft’s involvements with wars spanning nearly 130 years, with attention to craft and the British military in India beginning c.1830, Belgium during the First World War, Latvia during the interwar years of the 1920s and 1930s, Poland and the US and Britain during the Second World War, and Central-East Europe in the Cold War. In delving into particular examples, the papers inquire as to what we know about who made craft and how these makers engaged craft with commemorating war achievements, providing humanitarianism and propaganda, bearing witness to disruption and dislocation, indexing trauma, facilitating self-making and survival, rehabilitating, and networking for solidarity and peace.

Throughout, the papers intersect historical situations with theoretical frameworks and interdisciplinary approaches to illuminate how and for whom craft has mattered in its connections to the politics of wars and to wars’ subjectivities and affects. They revisit craft on home fronts and in battlefields, internment camps, sites of recovery, diasporas and places of memorialisation. At issue as well is what new narratives for craft histories might this attention to craft and war propose.


Keepsakes of Conflict: A productive duality
Julia Krueger (University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada)
Heather Smith (Independent Curator)

Holding onto the Thread: Latvian folk costume in post-war displaced communities
Alida Jekabson (Museum of Arts and Design, New York)

Crafting Resistance in and after Auschwitz: The case of Lisa Pinhas
Anne Röhl (University of Zurich)

‘To Exercise the Mind and Body in Healthy Activity’: Craft, rehabilitation and masculinity during the Second World War
Imogen Wiltshire (University of Leicester)

Fighting the War through Transnational Maternal Solidarity: Examining the cultural objects of the 1958 Women’s Caravan of Peace collection
Valeria Fulop-Pochon (University of Bristol)





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