Fandom is not an area that I’m academically particularly familiar with, but as CODEC’s pitching into this event (Fandom & Religion Conference, Leicester), I thought it was an opportunity to play with some of my thoughts about the ‘fandom’ of Keep Calm and Carry On, and look specifically at those produced by/for those of faith. These are my slides from today’s session.
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.
I’m currently scanning in some of my paperwork from what was then The Public Record Office, now The National Archives, and found the start of this interesting letter from 17th July 1939 (from AP Waterfield to Ivison Macadam):
I am troubled about this Poster Question. We must get the right idea across, and so far I can’t feel that we have got it at all. The “Keep Steady”, “Keep Calm”, doesn’t, I feel sure, hit it off: it’s too commonplace to be inspiring, and it may even annoy people that we should seem to doubt the steadiness of their nerves. And worst of all, it implies that we are on the inferior side, on the defensive from the start against a superior enemy who have already seized the initiative. That surely is all wrong. What we need, I feel sure, is a rallying war-cry that will bring out the best in everyone of us and put us in an offensive mood at once.
From INF 1/226. Read more about the first posters from the Second World War.
Topic: Uses of popular culture by religious groups
The ‘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
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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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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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.
Do 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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