Emanuel Licha


War Hotels

This thesis investigates the phenomena of the "war hotel" and the nextwork of relations it manages. When a conflict breaks out and whenever it is possible, foreign media workers travelling to cover it congregate in the same hotel to live and to work. This is where they cross paths with other protagonists of the conflict, thus converting this space into a site of strategic importance to the overall conduct of warfare. As the architectures from which conflicts are observed, analysed, discussed, and enunciated, ‘war hotels’ must be understood as playing an active role in the framing of conflicts: both the ways they are publically represented and the ways that we in turn see them unfold. Despite extended research into the mediatisation of conflict, little is known about the role of ‘war hotels’ as a crucial staging ground for the production of these representations. Through practice-led research, writing, and the making of a feature-length film, the past and present role of the phenomena of war hotels is examined in detail. While the film creates spatial and temporal conflations to depict what is, in effect, a non-specific meta-war hotel in a post-conflict environment, the written portion of the dissertation proceeds from an analysis of specific cases. A US Army training facility in California with its mock Iraqi villages and provisional hotel serves as a point of departure to establish and explore the concept of the war hotel as an optical device complicit in the production, representation and reception of conflict. With the advent of social media and distributed journalism conventional modes of war correspondence and coverage have been challenged and with it perhaps the necessity of a war hotel. Nevertheless, this thesis argues that this architectural-optical device has shaped the complex media constructions through which conflicts are seen and consumed and thus demands to be assessed theoretically and practically.

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