on June 7, 2022
Published on April 15, 2022 Updated on May 4, 2022

Guest Lecture : Elizabeth Kryder-Reid

Elizabeth Kryder-Reid picture
Elizabeth Kryder-Reid picture

« La guerre qui rond le manteau vert des prairies » : the environmental harm of war and the changing shape of memory in La Zone Rouge

Dr. Elizabeth Kryder-Reid is Chancellor’s Professor of Anthropology and Museum Studies at Indiana University, Indianapolis where she is the Director of the Cultural Heritage Research Center.


Humanity is facing intersecting crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution as a consequence of humans’ impact on the planet over the past three hundred years. This period, often called “the Anthropocene,” also includes the places we typically associate with the most significant events and achievements of the modern world. At many of these sites, one finds the museums, interpretive information (whether in plaques, podcasts, or guidebooks), and memorials that characterize the heritage industry. For example, the “European Route of Industrial Heritage” is a trail mapped out for those who want to visit the “most important industrial heritage sites in Europe” (ERIH). It includes mining and manufacturing sites that fueled the Industrial revolution, mass production, and made possible the consumption and waste practices of contemporary capitalism. War heritage includes battlefields, and their associated museums and memorials, where one can visit the places where soldiers fought and where nation states contested territories, identities, and power. This project explores how heritage sites address the aspects of environmental harm, and the intersections of memory practices and toxic heritage, in a time when cultural leaders are exploring how to address the central, even existential, issues of our time.
Within this broader context of toxic heritage, the presentation focuses on the environmental legacies of WWI created by both the use of and post-war destruction of conventional and chemical weapons across southern Belgium and northern France in the area designated as La Zone Rouge, due to the extreme damage inflicted during The Great War. I am particularly interested in the physical, ecological, material, and narrative histories of buried ordinance and heavy metal deposits from areas where munitions were not only left in situ as the “déchets de guerre” but also destroyed by burning, exploding, or dumping them in bodies of water. As a result, areas of Verdun, Somme, and Vimy have some of the highest lead metal density in the world. While some of the area remains an exclusion zone, there is also a rich history of engagement with the sites in formal and informal memory practices, as well as the ongoing management and mitigation of the sites. I explore the toxic legacy of the battlefields as part of the slow violence of war as it continues to affect people’s health through unexploded ordinance and the harmful effects of chemicals and heavy metals such as arsenic, antimony, mercury, and lead.

Date: 7 June 2022 from 12:30 to 14:00

The hybrid guest lecture is organised in person at the H.008 meeting room of MIR in Neuville-sur-Oise and remotely on Zoom.

To attend the relote guest lecture, please connect to Zoom: https://cyu-fr.zoom.us/j/96177620552

ID meeting: 961 7762 0552

The video will be online on the CY AS YouTube channel