Bound Volume Number
Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Arts and Science
poppy, military men and women
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Social and Cultural Anthropology
the poppy, a blood red flower, is the British nation’s symbol of remembrance. For over one hundred years, the poppy has been worn on the lapels of numerous generations as an act of respect for the military men and women that lost their lives serving the nation during times of war. The tradition ultimately began with World War I and since that time the poppy, its meaning and its use, is often viewed in a timeless manner; it transcends time to unite the past and the present. However, the poppy is not an unchanging, static and bounded symbol. This research therefore represents an attempt to historicise the poppy. In other words, it is an attempt to contextualise the materials, the meaning and the use of the poppy in and through time. Analysing the material properties of the poppy, its relationship to the bodies of soldiers, to embodied practice, to industrialisation, and to nationalism, I will argue that the poppy has undergone a series of transitions. Beginning first as a form of therapy, the construction of the silk poppy shared an intimate association and gained legitimacy through the touch of veterans. In 1978, industrial technologies transformed the poppy’s colouring to purify the symbol’s association with pain, warfare and the bodies of soldiers. With the advent of the centenary anniversary of the start of the war, the poppy once again changed. Using ceramic, the anniversary celebrations broke the poppy into pieces and used the biographies of the dead to resonate with the living. Through historicising the poppy, it becomes evident that history, material objects and meaning are not stable. Instead, they are process entangled in webs of relationships between objects, bodies, and time.
Barrett, Emily, "The Poppy: Contextualising a Seemingly Timeless Symbol in History, Materials and Practice" (2016). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 970.
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