Leicester: In the world but not of it: Keep Calm and Carry On

Fandom and Religion is an international, interdisciplinary conference. The Conference will explore interactions between religion and popular culture. How does fandom work? What is happening to fans as they express their enthusiasms and allegiances? Has fandom replaced or become a form of religion? What can the study of religion learn from explorations of fandom?

I’m giving a talk on “In the World but not of it: Keep Calm and Carry On“, mixing the popularity of the Keep Calm and Carry On Poster with contemporary Christianity.

[ABSTRACT] In the world but not of it: Keep Calm and Carry On

Topic: Uses of popular culture by religious groups

keep-calm-trushThe ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster, designed by the British Government in 1939 as a response to war, has become global cultural icon of the early twenty-first century, drawing a nostalgic response for a time ‘when we all pulled together’ in the current time of economic crisis. This paper considers what Christians have contributed to, and drawn from, fan culture around this poster, as part of their call to be ‘in the world but not of it’: are they also drawing on nostalgia, or seeking cultural relevance?

When the posters were originally produced in 1939, churchgoing was the cultural norm, in a way that it is not now. Many wartime posters had visibly religious discourse embedded within their designs, offering a clear moral and ethical perspective. As ‘the church’ has found itself discouraged from participating in the public sphere by an increasing sacred-secular divide, it has had to find new ways of engaging with the world. We question how Christian versions of the design and slogan (many as questionable as those produced by secular copyists) highlight the interaction between church and popular culture, whether separatist, conformist, or transformist.

Working with the concept of ‘whole-life discipleship’, we consider what the uses of subverted designs indicate about the stories that Christians want to tell about themselves: are they fans of Jesus, or fans of content? We question what they might offer as opportunities to open or participate a conversation – in a fragmented digital age – in a way that bridges culture and religion.

Accepted for Fandom and Religion: And International and Interdisciplinary Conference , Leicester University, July 2015

Keep Calm and the Green Bay Packers

Keep Calm and Carry OnHearing how the coach of the Green Bay Packers likes to keep his team going with ‘inspirational slogans’, and this week chose ‘Keep Calm and Carry On':

And this week, with the team’s injury problems getting so bad that McCarthy seems to be getting unexpectedly bad news every few hours, he believes Keep Calm and Carry On fits his team to a T. He even had the background for the poster, which was part of a series of propaganda posters the British government … well, let’s let McCarthy show off.

“You historians (will) probably appreciate that,” McCarthy said during his post-practice press conference after sharing the theme with reporters. “In 1939 (the poster was) issued by the British government right before World War II in anticipation of the bombing of the major cities. So, that’s what we’re talking about.”

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Keep Calm and Carry On Exhibition (Textiles)


If the latest traveling exhibition at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center feels a bit different than others, that’s by design.

Design, in fact, is an operative word for “Keep Calm and Carry On: Textiles on the Home Front in WWII Britain” – design of period clothing, beautifully-stitched patriotic scarves, home furnishings and more.

While the idea of bringing this exhibit to the museum initially raised eyebrows — some wondered whether it was the right fit for the museum  — don’t make the mistake of casting “Keep Calm” as a mere fashion show or furniture display.

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[EXHIBITION] Illinois Holocaust Museum


Hmmm, a new exhibition highlights the British experience of the Second World War by leading with the Keep Calm and Carry On poster… I really hope they also highlight that it wasn’t used:

An import from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, “Keep Calm and Carry On” showcases the ingenuity and defiance of the British on the homefront during the London Blitz. Of particular interest are colorful “propaganda” scarves designed by Jacqmar scattered throughout the show. In addition to covering up hair that suffered from shampoo rationing, the scarves also promoted a variety of patriotic messages in cunning ways. A pink scarf emblazoned with black script reading “Switch off that light, darling,” might read as a seductive come-on, but it also reinforced the importance of following blackout rules.

Read more about the exhibition, or the museum.

Keep Calm: Subverted Images

keep-calm-paint-potteryDo the subverted images of Keep Calm make any sense?

I’ve seen cheerleaders wearing shirts that read “Keep Calm and Cheer On.” What? Isn’t cheering the opposite of keeping calm? Isn’t that kind of the point of cheerleading? The purpose of a cheerleader is to excite the crowd into shouting, clapping their hands and jumping up and down to express their desire for their team to succeed. I would imagine that a cheerleader who followed the instruction “keep calm” would probably be cut from the squad.

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Disappointing EU Outcome

keepcalmSo, we had the EU ruling that Coop is allowed to keep the trademark for ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, but the fight’s not over yet (not that I’ve ever made a penny on it, but I like the attitude of Barter Books with regards to this)

A famous Northumberland book shop’s bid to overturn a European ruling relating to the use of a historic phrase has failed.

Barter Books, the second-hand shop in the former train station at Alnwick, led a challenge to a European Union (EU) decision to award a trademark for the Keep Calm and Carry On phrase, which has become a global phenomenon since a chance discovery at the store

Read full story, or this one:

But Barter Books’ owner Stuart Manley has not yet given up the fight. He criticised the decision, describing it as ‘disappointing’ and ‘perverse’, accusing Mr Coop of hijacking the phrase.

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