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Spaces and Emotional Styles: War Victims in the Interwar Period (1920s–1930s)

completed dissertation by Thomas Rohringer (advisor: Prof. Schüler-Springorum)

The First World War not only fundamentally transformed the political landscape of Europe, but also brought about new challenges to social policy, welfare programs for war-disabled veterans and surviving dependents of fallen soldiers being an exemplary case. The legal measures behind these programs have been considered important steps towards the development of the modern welfare state. However, the distinct governmental responses to the aftermath of the First World War’s industrialized warfare also had extensive social, moral and emotional implications for war victims and their place in society. By examining four specific social spaces – memorial sites, the working place, the family, and bureaucratic institutions – this project undertakes an analysis of the ambivalent and intricately intertwined relation between moral economies and modern welfare states.

Periodicals of victims' organizations and personal accounts of war victims from Great Britain and Austria are used as key primary sources. The project seeks to uncover correspondences and differences between organizations' and individuals' display, promotion or dismissal of particular values, morals and emotions, such as will power, grief, solidarity or fear. This will in turn make an analysis of war victims’ reactions to the underlying gendered morals and ethics of the British and Austrian welfare policies possible. The concept of emotional styles, located at the intersection of social norms and individual action, allows for a better understanding of how these moral values and emotional standards were subjectivized: Which moral and emotional values did the war victims refer to in order to legitimize their compliance with or defiance of the welfare policies? The dissertation project thereby offers insight into the ways in which emotional styles influenced morality and its social manifestations.