'I just feel it's important to know exactly what he went through':: In their footsteps and the role of emotions in Australian television history

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Abstract

In Their Footsteps (2011) was an Australian television history program in which individuals retraced the footsteps of ancestors who had served in war. Like the British genealogical quest program Who Do You Think You Are In Their Footsteps was premised on the idea that we can understand the past in experiential and emotional terms. It stressed the connections between present-day individuals and a larger national history through their ancestors participation in Australian military engagements. Australias interpretation of its national past has recently been the subject of heated, politicized debate, and this program appeared at a time when Australian historians were expressing concern at a resurgence in nationalist military commemoration. Some historians regarded this affective attachment to Australias military past with suspicion, arguing that these attachments were produced by a jingoistic political culture. Television histories, which operate in an affective register, are usually neglected in these debates. This article argues that understanding television history is essential to grasping what military history means to contemporary Australians. A close analysis of In Their Footsteps demonstrates the ways that the deeply affective mode of television history offers a complex and nuanced form of historical understanding. Such analysis can help us better understand the contemporary appeal of military history.

LanguageEnglish
Pages594-611
Number of pages18
JournalHistorical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
Volume33
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013

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Television
television
emotion
Military
history
historian
political culture
Television History
Emotion
appeal
Affective
interpretation
participation
present
Ancestors
Historian
Military History

Cite this

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abstract = "In Their Footsteps (2011) was an Australian television history program in which individuals retraced the footsteps of ancestors who had served in war. Like the British genealogical quest program Who Do You Think You Are In Their Footsteps was premised on the idea that we can understand the past in experiential and emotional terms. It stressed the connections between present-day individuals and a larger national history through their ancestors participation in Australian military engagements. Australias interpretation of its national past has recently been the subject of heated, politicized debate, and this program appeared at a time when Australian historians were expressing concern at a resurgence in nationalist military commemoration. Some historians regarded this affective attachment to Australias military past with suspicion, arguing that these attachments were produced by a jingoistic political culture. Television histories, which operate in an affective register, are usually neglected in these debates. This article argues that understanding television history is essential to grasping what military history means to contemporary Australians. A close analysis of In Their Footsteps demonstrates the ways that the deeply affective mode of television history offers a complex and nuanced form of historical understanding. Such analysis can help us better understand the contemporary appeal of military history.",
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