The Material Culture of Remembrance and Identity: South Africa, India, Canada & Australia's Imperial War Graves Commission Sites on the Western Front
Supervisors: Adrian Gregory and Jeanette Atkinson
My research examines how Imperial War Graves Commission sites represented, reinforced, and performed different aspects of identity for South Africa, India, Canada, & Australia in France and Belgium between 1917-1938. With a material-culture-centred approach that utilizes memorials and cemeteries as primary sources, this project lies at the intersection of research on the social history of war remembrance, imperial history, the First World War, collective memory, grief & mourning, and material culture theory. Of particular interest are the relationships between collective/individual and 'national'/'imperial' identities, and the spatial & conceptual relationships between memorial, cemetery, landscape, and the dead. Case study sites include Neuve Chapelle, Vimy, Delville Wood, Villers-Bretonneux, Thiepval, and Menin Gate.
I am one of the ten DPhil students in the Globalising and Localising the Great War research network (http://greatwar.history.ox.ac.uk), and am co-convenor of its seminar series for the 2017-2018 academic year. In 2017-18 I am also leading the Global War Graves Leicester project (https://globalwargravesleicester.blogspot.com) and am Graduate Projects Coordinator for TORCH (The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities), a role which involves organizing TORCH's Public Engagement with Research summer school. Since 2016 I have worked as UK Coordinator and Lead Chaperone for the Vimy Foundation's battlefield programs, leading and teaching highschool students from five countries. I also currently work as a research assistant in medieval Islamic and Indian Ocean history, and as exhibition researcher/writer for Oxford: The War & The World (2018-19 travelling exhibit, University of Oxford). I also enjoy in my role on the Young Innovators (16-25s) team at the Museum of Oxford: current project is planning a Fall 2017 'museum late' event on the theme of mapping, geography, and sense of place. I hold Exeter College's Winston S. Churchill tuition scholarship 2015-2018, and my prior degrees are in Museum Studies (MA, University of Leicester 2015) and Classical Archaeology & History (BA, University of British Columbia 2014).
“Who belongs in ‘local’ history? A case study of the Global War Graves Leicester project” (November 22-23: Reflections on the Commemoration of World War One (Canterbury100), Christchurch)
“Global War Graves: Challenging who belongs in Leicester’s ‘local’ FWW story” (Nov 9: Leicester and the First World War, HLF-funded Century of Stories community engagement project / University of Leicester)
“‘They are not missing, they are here’: The relationship between British imperial memorialisation and postwar mourning” (June 9: Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain (SAHGB) Annual Symposium, London)
“‘Here Canada has poured forth her soul’: Canadian and American First World War graves as negotiations of identity” (May 15-18: Maple Leaf & Eagle, University of Helsinki)
“Sacred Ground: The relationships between Imperial War Graves Commission sites and their landscapes” (May 3: Wild War One, Northumbria University)
“'Keeping touch with our people': The Delville Wood Memorial replicas and the tangibility of grieving memory" (April 20-21: Moving Monuments: History, Memory and the Politics of Public Sculpture, Manchester Centre for Public History and Heritage)
“The significance and spatial relationships of First World War battlefield memorial locations” (Mar 27-28: The Senses and Spaces of Death, Dying and Remembering: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, University of Leeds)
“Messages and the Missing” (Mar 1: Constructing Messages of War symposium, University of Oxford)
“‘His six feet of ground’: The Empty-Graves Proposal for the Missing of the First World War” (Feb 3: Modern Conflict Research Symposium, Grave Matters, University of Bradford).
"The First World War in Stone & Colour: Memorialisation of non-white FWW participants" (Dec 7: Dragon School, year 7-8 students, Oxford)
“‘I shall not be there’: The Absent Dead As a Nexus of Identities” (Oct 26-28: Au cœur de la Grande Guerre conference, Mons Memorial Museum)
"'When you go home, tell them of us': The Vimy Pilgrimage Award at the crossroads between education and academia, memory and history" (Sept 30: 'Their Past, Their Memory?' Teaching & Learning War Symposium, KCL)
"‘Alien soil’, or ‘forever India’? Indian burial and material commemoration on the Western Front" (Sept 4-6: CWGC conference, University of Kent)
Panellist, “New Research in Extra-European Perspectives” panel (May 7-10: Hanover, Herrenhausen Symposium: 'The Long End of the First World War: Ruptures, Continuities and Memories')
“The Vimy Memorial in Comparative Context” (April 26, Ottawa: Why Vimy? Cultural Memory Workshop, Canadian War Museum)
“‘The heart-strings of Canada will reach through all time’: the material culture of identity and memory at Vimy” (April 5, Cardiff: 'Myth, Memory and Military Encounters – National Rememberings of First World War Battles' conference)
"First World War Memory, Material Culture, and the Shaping of Canadian Identity” (March 1: Herstmonceux Castle, Queen’s University)
“‘We live among the ruins and the echoes of Armageddon’: First World War cemeteries and British imperial identities” (February 22-24, Edinburgh: War Through Other Stuff conference)
“First World War Memorials of the British Empire” (February 18: Western Front Association, Ox & Bucks Branch)
List of 2014-2016 speaking available upon request.
Under review with History & Memory: Smyth, Hanna. "'Be yours to hold it high’: WWI Centenary Interpretation in English Museums," 12,500 words.
Louis Halewood, Adam Luptak, and Hanna Smyth (eds.) War Time: First World War Perspectives on Temporality. Routledge, forthcoming 2018.
Smyth, Hanna. “The Material Culture of Remembrance and Identity: South Africa, India, Canada, & Australia’s Imperial War Graves Commission Sites on the Western Front.” In Anorthe Kremers (ed), The Long End of the First World War (Campus), 3,000 words, forthcoming 2018.
Smyth, Hanna. “‘There is absolutely nothing like the carving of names’: Imperial War Graves Commission Sites and First World War Memory.” In Derek Mallett (ed), Monumental Conflicts? Twentieth Century Wars and the Evolution of Popular Memory (Routledge), 9,500 words, forthcoming late 2017.
Smyth, Hanna. “Identity and Memory at WWI British Imperial Memorials on the Western Front.” In K. Pearl and F. Jacob (eds), Remember the Dead, Remind the Survivors, Warn the Descendants: War Memorials from a Global Perspective (Schöningh, War (Hi)Stories series), 10,000 words, forthcoming late 2017.
Alastair Fraser, Julie Biddlecombe Browne, Hanna Smyth, et al. Exhibition Guide: ‘Somme 1916: From Durham to the Western Front’. [Major museum exhibition at Palace Green Library, March-October 2016]. (Durham, 40 pages).
Smyth, Hanna. “Review: And We Go On by Will R. Bird .” British Journal of Canadian Studies 29:1 (2016), 114-115.
Smyth, Hanna. “Mourning, Memory and Material Culture: Colonial Commemoration of the Missing on the Great War's Western Front.” World History Bulletin 31:1 [Special Issue: Empires and the Great War] (2015), 34-40.
Smyth, Hanna. “Mourning, Memory and Material Culture: Colonial Commemoration of the Missing on the Great War's Western Front.” UBC Atlas [Undergraduate History Journal] Vol 9 (2014), 50-77.