University of Sussex
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Writing the occupation: the articulation of women's subjectivities, France 1940-1944

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posted on 2023-06-09, 05:58 authored by Sally Palmer
The key objective of this study has been to contribute new evidence of the articulation of women’s subjectivities during the Occupation in France 1940–1944, by using contemporaneous journals as traces of lived experience. A further objective was to address the omission of the extent and riches of such primary source material in both French and British historiography of the period. The methodological approach employed was to consider four such journals as primary sources to interrogate sites of Occupation historiographical enquiry: the exode, the Jewish survivor experience, attentisme and the role of the female agent de liaisonin resistance activity. The contribution and originality of the research lie in its systematic analysis of the four journals, the choice of genre (diary) and the qualitative value emerging from sources that have previously been used schematically or not at all. It is now almost impossible to recover day-to-day Occupation experience through oral testimony and it is not always identifiable in archival documentation and we are therefore left only with fragmentary traces. Qualitative studies such as this research offer the means to recover elements of that detail. The findings of the study are that women’s subjectivities of the wider constraints of the Occupation are articulated in the physicalities of bodily sensations and that wider notions of loss, exile and waiting predominate. The thesis has also demonstrated the extent of the under-reporting of women’s narratives during the Occupation and argues that the use of women’s texts should be privileged in future work in order to redress the gender imbalance in both British and French Occupation historiography.


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