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Cultural Histories of the Great Flu Pandemic 1918 – 1919: Representations and Memories

Interdisciplinary Conference 19. - 21. Februar 2019 Campus Westend, Seminarhaus, SH 1.109

Attacking in three waves, from the spring of 1918 into early 1919, in a short time span of just several months, the so-called ‘Spanish Influenza’ pandemic wrecked unparalleled havoc. Nevertheless, until relatively recently the study of this massive global catastrophe suffered from historiographical neglect in comparison to other major events in the twentieth century. It was largely subject to cultural oblivion in the public sphere, though vivid recollections were retained in more private settings. The centennial of the pandemic offers the opportunity to redress some of the glaring lacunae in the historiography to date, in particular the relative dearth of studies of cultural history and memory.

The interdisciplinary conference explores a global-transnational cultural history of the Great Flu by examining representations of the pandemic in different countries, societies and contexts from 1918 to the present day.

Programm-Flyer als pdf

19 February 2019

Goethe University, Seminarhaus, Room SH 1.109


Steffen Bruendel:

Welcome Address and Introduction

09.00 – 10.30

Session 1: Private and Public Forgetting/Remembering
Chair: Steffen Bruendel


Guy Beiner, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Be’er Sheva: “The Great Flu between Social Forgetting and Regenerated Memory”


Howard Phillips, University of Cape Town: “The Flu Pandemic in Memory: Recollections of the Spanish Flu”


Ida Milne, St. Patrick’s Carlow College, Carlow: “Using Oral History to Explore Transition in the Irish Remembering and Forgetting of the 1918-19 Influenza Pandemic”

10.30 – 11.00

Coffee Break

11.00 – 12.30

Session 2: Mapping Memories
Chair: Ryan Davis


David Killingray, University of London: “Pandemic Death, Response and Memory in Non-European Societies”


Łukasz Mieszkowski, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw: “Virus and Lice: The 1918 - 1920 Polish Episode of the Spanish Flu Pandemic and its Rivalry with Typhus Epidemics”


Nancy Bristow, University of Puget Sound, North Tacoma, Washington: “Public War / Private Losses: Memory and Martial Metaphor in the United States”

12.30 – 14.00

Lunch Break

14.00 – 15.30

Session 3: Representations in Art
Chair: Cynthia Gabbay


Steffen Bruendel, Goethe-University, Frankfurt: "Between the Great War and the Great Flu: How Europe's Avant-garde Coped With the Influenza Pandemich of 1918/19"


Laura Spinney, Science Journalist and Writer, Paris: "Did Artista Ignore the Spanish Flu, and I So Why? A Hypothesis"


Utz Thimm, Journalist, Frankfurt: "'When two crises inersect ...' Remembering the Spanish Flu in the Low Countries"

15.30 – 16.00

Coffee Break

16.00 –17.30

Workshop I: Publishing Popular History


20 February 2019

Goethe-University, Seminarhaus, Room SH 1.109

9.00 – 10.00

Session 4: Scientific Narratives
Chair: Ida Milne


Mark Honigsbaum, City University, London: “Pandemic Dialogues: The ‘Spanish Flu’ and the Interplay of Science and History”


María-Isabel Porras, University of Castilla-La Mancha, Ciudad Real: “Risk Perception and Reactions to Influenza Pandemics and its Vaccines in Spain (1918 - 2009)”

10.00 – 10.30

Coffee Break

10.30 – 12.00

Workshop II: Retrospective on Previous Anniversaries

12.00 – 13.30

Lunch Break

13.30 – 15.00

Session 5: Archives and Memory


Liane Bertiucci and Lineti Firmo Rodrigues, Universidade Estadual do Paraná: "Spanish Flu in the Memories of the Old and the Words of the Young (Brazil, Mid-Twentieth to Twentyfirst Century)"


Cynthia Gabbay, FU Berlin: "Ibero-American Representations of the Spanish Flu: Traces in the Archive of a Great Oblivion"


Hannah Rhian Mawsdley, Queen Mary University, London: "Richard Hughesdon Collier - Remembering the 'Forgotten' Pandemic"

15.00 – 15.30

Coffee Break

15.30 – 16.30

Session 6: Representations in Media
Chair: Maria-Isabel Porras


Kate Barker, York University, Toronto: “Killer Advertising: How Canadians were Sold the 1918 - 1919 Influenza Pandemic”


Ryan Davis, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois: “Spanish Flu Then and Now, a View from Spain”

16:30 – 17.00

Coffee Break

17.00 – 18.30

Workshop III: Teaching the Pandemic’s Legacy


21 February 2019

Goethe-University, Seminarhaus, Room SH 1.109

9.00 – 10.30

Workshop IV: Taking Stock of the Centenary

10.30 – 11.00

Coffee Break

11.00 – 12.30

Final Discussion: Developing Cultural Histories of the Great Flu
Moderation: Guy Beiner


Guy Beiner, Professor of Modern History, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Steffen Bruendel, Research Director, Frankfurt Humanities Research Centre, GU Frankfurt

Cynthia Gabbay, Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, Freie University of Berlin