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A pacifist critique of the red poppy: reflections on British war commemorations’ increasingly hegemonic militarism

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journal contribution
posted on 09.12.2021, 12:14 by Alexandre ChristoyannopoulosAlexandre Christoyannopoulos
The red or ‘Flanders’ poppy has become the ubiquitous emblem of British war commemorations, yet it is also becoming more hegemonic and militaristic: the poppy’s meaning has always been contested, but its dominant interpretation has become increasingly intolerant. Building on literature on the poppy and war commemorations, on pacifist approaches to security studies and on militarism, this article sketches a pacifist critique of the poppy’s increasingly hegemonic militarism. It starts by sketching out a history of the poppy’s contested meaning. A first-order critique then reflects on the hegemonic poppy narrative’s internal dissonances, on the selective memory which it reveals, and on the blinkered horizon of compassion and identification which it promotes. A second-order critique exposes the broader political and ethical consequences including for the military-industrial-entertainment complex, for liberal institutionalist projects, and for veterans. The final section reflects on the resulting unease that can be triggered by the poppy’s hegemonizing function in British civil religion and calls for poppy commemorations to better accommodate deeper reflections on the causes of war, militarism, and the potentially complicit role played by war commemorations.

History

School

  • Social Sciences and Humanities

Department

  • International Relations, Politics and History

Published in

Critical Military Studies

Publisher

Taylor & Francis

Version

VoR (Version of Record)

Rights holder

© The Authors

Publisher statement

This is an Open Access Article. It is published by Taylor & Francis under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Acceptance date

30/11/2021

Publication date

2021-12-08

Copyright date

2021

ISSN

2333-7486

eISSN

2333-7494

Language

en

Depositor

Dr Alexandre Christoyannopoulos. Deposit date: 30 November 2021