Body, Mind, and Soul at War

University Programme Course Overview

Body, Mind, and Soul at War

  • Professor: Guillaume PIKETTY
  • Session: June
  • Language of instruction: English
  • Number of hours of class: 36

Download the 2020 course overview for "Body, Mind and Soul at War" (pdf, 333 KB)

Objective of the Course

This seminar intends to address the concepts surrounding the impact of war violence, possibly extreme, on the bodies, the sensitivities and the minds of the people who deploy and/or experience it, both during the event itself and after the guns have fallen silent.


We will take into account the chronology and specificities of certain contexts and experiences, as well as tactical and strategic analyses. A principal focus, however, will be given to individual cases, including “on the field” experiences, feelings and emotions, personal evolutions and transformations, and so on.  While the 19th and 20th centuries will be the primary timeframes observed throughout the seminar, incursions in a wider chronology will occur occasionally.  The entirety of the course material will be analysed through a comparative perspective.

As often as possible, our work will rely on testimonies, souvenirs, private writings and novels, as well as on pictures, movies and documentaries. We will endeavour to make as many connections as possible with current conflicts and/or war-like issues.

We should devote two sessions to visiting and analysing a museum and a site of memory.

Organization of the Course


  1. Learning to fight and kill; brotherhood in arms; leadership and obedience.
  2. Resistance and combatant exile; repression and prison; irregular and counter-insurgency warfare.

In the heart of the maelstrom

  1. In the turmoil of war; refugees and displaced persons; gender relations to the test of war.
  2. Warfare and the environment; logistics; bodies in pain: wounds, diseases, medicine and surgery.
  3. Death; “Ars Moriendi” and mourning.

Violence at stake

  1. Representations, standards and treatments: the enemy, the ally, the prisoner of war.
  2. Extreme violence; starvation, mass killing, genocide; torture and concentration camps; terrorism.

Coming out of war

  1. Towards a (possibly new) private and intimate life; cultural demobilization. Brutalization, re-mobilization and para-militarism.
  2. Telling about war; journalism; moral economy of gratitude; myths and legends; memories.
  3. Emotions (possibly extreme); psychiatric traumas and possible treatments.

Main Professor Biography

Guillaume Piketty is a Full Professor of contemporary history at Sciences Po (Paris). He works on the social and cultural history of the Second World War in France and Europe, and, more broadly, on warlike phenomenon and the resistant phenomenon since the beginning of the American Civil War. He places a particular emphasis on the links between war, sensibilities and emotions.

Back to top