What topic are you working on for your masters degree or doctorate?
My doctoral dissertation examines self-perceptions among the Danish minority in the German army during the First World War. The analytical approach deals with war experience as a transformative influence in terms of the soldiers’ collective identities, not only during but also after the war. This is based on a constructivist approach to the concept of ‘identity’ and an understanding of collective self-perception as identification, i.e. as process and practice. The identities of the soldiers are hereby not considered as something inherent or determined, but as a result of interaction and circumstance.
Thus, the project has two main perspectives of analysis: 1) Possible patterns of change in the soldiers’ collective identifications during the war, and 2) how changes in self-perception continued after 1918 through ways of remembering and coping with the war experiences.
Why did you decide to work on the First World War?
Ever since I was a child, I’ve been interested in First World War history. I remember watching a 1930’s cartoon called Peace on Earth, and the apocalyptic images of the battlefield made a great impression on me. My fascination with the history of the war only grew during my school years. However, during my BA and MA degree programs I didn’t have the chance to study the war in any way. So, when the time came to choose the topic for my MA thesis, it had to be about the First World War. I was lucky enough to find a subject field which hadn’t been extensively researched. This turned out to be a great basis for a thesis, and it became the springboard for my current project and PhD fellowship.
Which is your favourite book on the First World War and why?
My favourite book is titled Danskere på Vestfronten (2009) by the Danish historian Claus Bundgård Christensen. Reading this book was my first real introduction to the war participation of the Danish minority. The book is well-written and a thorough exposition of the Danish-speaking soldiers’ involvement on the Western Front, placing this relatively small group of soldiers within the wider context of the German army and the progression of the war.
When it comes to fictional books, my favourite is, on the other hand, a well-known classic: All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) by Erich Maria Remarque. It is just a great piece of literature – even if you aren’t a First World War enthusiast.