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Veterans Observed/Veterans Observing

David Jay, Shelly Rambo, Roy Scranton, Zoë Wool
March 8th, 2016
5:30 PM


Banner image:  Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. "The Veteran At Home." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1868.

To read a description of this discussion and find a video of the discussion in its entirety, follow this link.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

White Lecture Hall (Duke East Campus - directions)

5:30 - 6:45 pm

Everyone is welcome for this discussion of war veterans' responses to their experiences of war. With our four panelists, we'll explore the different voices and frameworks that emerge in their work as ethnographers, documentarians, scholars, and writers, and the insights provided by their own varied experiences as participants in and documenters of veterans' return to civilian life in the United States.

The panelists who will be sharing their work with us are:

David Jay, photographer whose work includes The Unknown Soldier, a series of large-scale photographs of severely wounded young soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Shelly Rambo, theologian at Boston University whose research and teaching include work with military chaplains and with veterans concerning issues related to the spirituality of veteran healing.

Roy Scranton, journalist, fiction writer, and post-doctoral fellow at Rice University, and a US Army veteran of the Iraq war whose work includes critiques of the "trauma hero" in military fiction; the intersection of culture, conflict, and climate change; and his own military-focused fiction.

Zoë Wool, anthropologist at Rice University whose research includes long-term ethnographic fieldwork with war injured American soldiers and their family members.

The discussion will be moderated by Michelle Lanier, oral historian and folklorist who teaches the "Veterans Oral History Project" course for Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies.

More detailed biographical sketches can be found below.

Sponsored by the Forum for Scholars and Publics, with additional support from the Department of Cultural Anthropology.

David Jay

David Jay was born in Oakland, CA but has spent most of his life between Australia, California and New York City. He has been shooting fashion photography for the past 20 years. His work has been featured in international editions of Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Style, Shape and countless others.

The focus of his photography shifted abruptly nearly 12 years ago when a dear young friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. Soon after, David began The SCAR Project. Following this series, David continued to dedicate his work to capturing often unseen aspects of humanity. Other photographic series include The Unknown Soldier, The Alabama Project, Grief Camp, and Naked Ladies.

Jay’s photography has been published in the New York Times, BBC, LIFE, Forbes, USA Today, and countless other publications throughout the world.

A book was published entitled "The SCAR Project” and a documentary on the project entitled “Baring It All” won an Emmy Award in 2012.

Acquisitions of Jay’s photography include The Museum of Fine Art in Houston, The Library of Congress and the Phillips Collection among others.

On the surface, Jay’s images reveal the realities of abuse, war, poverty, disease and of course, beauty. Their overarching message however, is much greater . . . and universal in its intent. Through David Jay’s photography, context evaporates, and we as the viewer are left to engage the subjects, trade places, and for a moment, live behind their eyes. We recognize our shared emotions and scars, the soul of mankind, and pause to consider our role. David Jay’s portraits reveal the immense power of our every interaction and the future they create.

Shelly Rambo

Boston University

Shelly Rambo is is Associate Professor of Theology at Boston University School of Theology. Her research and teaching interests focus on religious responses to suffering, trauma, and violence, and her book, Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining, develops a theology of the Spirit in response to the interdisciplinary study of trauma. Her current book project, Resurrecting Wounds in the Afterlife of Trauma, re-approaches the meaning of resurrection in Christian theology in light of the reality of post-traumatic wounding. Most recently, she developed a module titled, “Theological Rethinking of Trauma and Suffering,” as part of the VA Mental Health & Chaplaincy Video Training series that was a collaborative effort to provide a higher quality of patient-centered care for veterans and service members. Inspired by the work of military chaplains, she was instrumental in designing Boston University School of Theology’s M.Div. track in Chaplaincy. She also serves as a faculty leader in Boston University’s Religion and Conflict Transformation program.   


Roy Scranton

University of Notre Dame

Roy Scranton is the author of Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of Civilization, co-editor of Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War. His essays, articles, and reviews have been published in Rolling Stone, the New York Times, The Nation, and elsewhere. He holds an MA in Liberal Studies from the New School for Social Research and a PhD in English from Princeton, was a post-doctoral research fellow at the Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Science at Rice University, and recently joined the faculty at the University of Notre Dame as assistant professor of English. His current scholarly project is on the politics of trauma in American World War II literature. His Iraq war novel, War Porn, was released in summer 2016 by Soho Press.

Zoë Wool

Rice University

Zoë Wool is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Rice University. Her research is grounded in ethnographic fieldwork with war injured American soldiers and explores social, cultural, ethical, intimate, carnal, and clinical situations within which such special categories of life, death, and personhood accrue value or are debrided of it. Her first book After War: The Weight of Life at Walter Reed, was published by Duke University Press in 2015. In addition to ethnographic work, she has also explored visual imagery of American soldiers, including curating a series of images and essays, "Soldier Exposures and Technical Publics" for Public Books in 2013. In addition to her many scholarly publications, Wool is a contributor to the online forums and

Michelle Lanier

Duke University

Michelle Lanier has been an instructor at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University since 2000. Growing up in a family that includes veterans of five American wars has inspired her current work, training students to collect veterans' narratives. Michelle also serves as the director of North Carolina's African American Heritage Commission and the Heritage and Traditions section of the NC Arts Council. Michelle uses her background as an oral historian and folklorist to connect communities around personal narratives and cultural expression. With countless hours of oral history interviews under her belt, Michelle considers her most sacred work the act of bearing witness to the transformative power of story.