Age of Emergency: Living with Violence at the End of Empire


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress during academic year 2021-2022


How did British society respond—or fail to respond—to the use of torture in its overseas empire after 1945? Although the absence of sustained outrage has often been attributed to the absence of information, awareness of brutal violence was in fact widespread. Networks made up of activists, soldiers, journalists, filmmakers, and others bridged the gap between the conflict zones of empire and everyday life in Britain. But the same ways of knowing that eroded secrecy about violence also undermined action to stop it. “Age of Emergency” chronicles the tactics of accommodation that blurred epistemology and ethics: insisting on the unknowability of definitive truth about violence; distinguishing between knowledge and the duty to act on it; and valorizing the acceptance of “hard truths.”