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British Civilians in the Front Line

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... ------ , 1940-42, in: Northern History 32, 1996 »Civilians in the frontline« ist auch der Titel, den Helen Jones ihrer Studie über »air raids, productivity and wartime culture« gegeben hat. 46 Auch bei ihr geht es im engeren Sinne um die Kriegsmoral der Bevölkerung. Allerdings hat sie eine erfrischend andere Perspektive gewählt. ...
... The close correlation suggested in this paragraph between the notions of Foucault's biopower and Marx's labour-power is drawn from Virno (2004: 81–4). For another example of a bio-political intervention in the interests of efficiency, see Jones (2006) on government and industry measures to protect productivity levels from the interruptions caused by air raid warnings. ...
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This paper focuses on Mass Observation (MO)’s morale work, commissioned by the British Government over the period 1939–41. It examines the ways in which MO’s earlier collecting practices were recomposed through its research into civilian morale, and linked up with national centres of calculation, in particular the Ministry of Information (MoI). We explore the associations through which civilian morale was established, simultaneously, as an autonomous object of knowledge and as a particular field of intervention. As an object of knowledge, morale posited the existence of a dynamic affective ‘atmosphere’ associated with collective everyday life, which could be calibrated through various social scientific methods. As a particular field of intervention, technicians of morale postulated that this atmosphere might be regulated through various policy instruments. This paper traces the ways in which MO practices were implicated along these two axes in the emergence of civilian morale as a domain warranting the state’s ‘constant attention and supervision
... According to Helen Jones, there were 'people eschewing protection, ignoring the siren and not taking cover' and that, 'gas masks were never used and often not even carried.' 58 These varying individual responses to and interpretations of the gas mask's functionality were not unique. It also applied to validated airminded materialities such as bomb shelters, as evidenced by a survey in 1940 that showed that despite the many killed by bombs, almost two thirds of Londoners did not rely on the protection of bomb shelters. ...
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This article provides a theoretical and empirical contribution to the political history of technology by articulating a new conceptual perspective on the power of technological things and through outlining a history of modern urban technological terror and terrorism. It introduces a user-centered perspective on technological politics in the form of ‘subject histories of technology’ which, contrasting with prevalent ‘object histories of technology’ on technological inventions and innovators, emphasize the self-fashioning power of technological artifacts. Through an overview history of technology of ‘terrormindedness’ covering the three subsequent waves of urban terror arising from aerial bombardment, nuclear weapons and substate terrorism it shows how technologies have been used by individual citizens to cope with the experience of man-made fear and insecurity. In conclusion it argues that the political history of technology should to the focus on community politics and system politics of big institutional technologies add an attention to the personal politics of the emotional and material power of small technical things.
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Stephen Spender joined the National Fire Service (NFS) in the autumn of 1942, having been twice rejected on medical grounds in 1939, and seconded to Sub-station XIY in Cricklewood, London. He completed a 3-week course in basic firemanship during which, ‘dressed in dungarees like rompers’, he was ‘made to obey humiliating and often ridiculous orders’ given to him by the regular firemen.2 Finding the work ‘wet and cold, and intractable and heavy’, Spender frankly admitted to never fitting in to life as a fireman. Reflecting on his first experience of a firefight, he admitted to playing ‘a minor role — indeed, I hesitated to get out on to a sloping roof two hundred feet above the ground, and let some one else do it who had been on the job many times.’3
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