Call for Papers

E|C n. 40, 2023

Senses of the Battle

Edited by Juan Alonso-Aldama (Université Paris Cité)
e Federico Montanari (Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia)


Why reconsider the concept and category of “battle”? Certainly, there is an urgency, and a need for reflection on war and conflict, given the topicality and the irruption, or rather, the return, of war in Europe this past year. And certainly, at least on the part of a disciplinary area such as semiotics and sociosemiotics, it has seemed a bit “lacking in voice” (to recall also in this Paolo Fabbri, who had devoted much work to the topic of war and conflict; and in one of his remarks regarding the need to work on the gaps, dictionary and otherwise, in the discipline). More generally, social sciences and humanities, and in particular semiotics (beyond, of course, political sciences and international relations, or more journalistic interventions), seem to have paid less attention to the return of the war, at least in the first few months; or perhaps there was a sort of                      delayed reaction. On the other hand, regarding the other major emergency of these years, the pandemic one, there has been a proliferation of studies, publications and research. In short, it seems that the event of war has, at least in part, dumbed down critical research on meaning.

So let us come to the specific reasons that led us to propose the theme and category of battle. Although war, as a socio-semiotic fact, has been the subject of work in semiotics, particularly from a strategic perspective (mainly in the works of Fabbri, Montanari and Alonso Aldama), battle, as a precise and punctual moment of that, has been less studied within our discipline. Thus, for us, on the one hand, this would be a purely structural reason: battle is, at the same time, a theme, a figure, a discursive configuration, to put it in semiotic terms, which operates at different levels: praxeological, action, and narrative one; to the concrete forms of, literally, “fielding” of programs of action. On the other hand, it presents itself, in the tradition of the language of war and in the modern theorization of strategy and conflict – at least the Western one – in a structural tension and opposition to the category of “war”: it represents as its intensive, “culminative”, decisive, final moment.

It is no coincidence that Clausewitz, the great theorist of modern, revolutionary and post-revolutionary warfare, taken up by later strategists, up to the Cold War and present days, spoke of battle as, precisely, the moment of enemy annihilation, of culmination, in his  conception of “growth to extremes” of violence (which, in the following century, would later be defined as escalation). The “great decisive battle” as the instrument and end of the victorious conduct of a war. Representation of the “limitlessness of violence” and, at the same time, its extreme and its limit; moment of constitution of the political subject (whether leader, emperor, or collective, such as the people, or the Nation). To go as far as its paradoxical reversal: war today seems to threaten and implement battle without ever making it final (its opposite has even been theorized since the Cold War: in the practice of “non-battle” or, in Eastern strategy (Jullien), but also in guerrilla warfare, moreover anticipated by Clausewitz himself, with the idea of a diffuse and decentralized war). But the battle (“the face of battle” as historian Keegan pointed out) is also given by its constituting itself as a device of vision: gaze, point of view (glance on the battle or within the battle), but also put into image, up to pictorial, visual representation (Virilio), and up to current technologies (drones, satellites, smart weapons) that make possible a “networked” and a “shared” vision and form of the battle, as unfortunately seems to be happening for the war in Ukraine.

But beyond the strict visual dimension, the battle implies and disrupts the subject’s entire body and his perception of the surrounding world because the battle presents itself as “a total somatic fact” who jolts all the senses, either by hypertrophy or excess of stimuli that prevent the stabilization of any semiotic structure, or by hypotrophy or absence of perceptual saillance (fog of war) necessary for the attribution of meaning to the lived experience. The very existence of the cognitive and passionate subject is jeopardized in a world in which smells, sounds, tactile sensation, tastes or visions are anything but what the subject was accustomed to handling perceptually and semiotically. The battle thus presents itself as a total perceptive mechanism.

The aim of this dossier is to explore, from a sociosemiotic, historical, anthropological and strategic point of view, primarily the question of the sensorial and at the same time tactical-strategic experience of war and battle. We believe that work on the experience of the battle is fundamental to a global understanding of the meaning of armed conflict because the somatic and perceptual dimension of battle decisively conditions the circumstances and tactical-strategic projects of war and its transformations. The subject of The Senses of Battle will be textual analyses (historical discourses, films, both fiction and non-fiction, journalistic discourse of current events, works of art, literary texts, war memoirs…), political, historical-anthropological and socio-technological researches on the experience of battle, and theoretical contributions on the relationships between perception and signification in the context of war, with the aim of deriving semiotic patterns on the cultural and socio-political effects of these experiences of battle.

Research Areas:

  • Narrative forms of battle
  • Perceptual categories and somatic experiences of warfare
  • Aesthetical transformations (art, film, literature, photography, technologies, media...)
  • Forms of the plastic representation of battle
  • Aesthesic and passional dimensions of


Bibliographic References

Alonso-Aldama, J., 2023 (à paraître), La tension politique. Pour une sémiotique de la conflictualité, Paris, L’Harmattan.

Alonso-Aldama, 2006, J., Il discorso del terrorismo, Roma, Meltemi.

Brossolet, G., 1975, Essai sur la non-bataille, Paris, Belin.

Clark, M., 2020, “Russian Hybrid Warfare”, ISW Report.

Fabbri, P., 2007, “La comunicazione arrischiata: per una semiotica dell’emergenza”, in: D’Alessandro, L., (a cura di), Il gioco dell’intelligenza collettiva e i nuovi percorsi dei significati, Edizioni Angelo Guerini e Associati, Milano, pp. 81-97.

Fabbri, P., “Sémiotique, stratégies, camouflage”, Actes Sémiotiques, n° 118, 2015.

Fabbri, P., Montanari, F., 2012, “Semio-guerra. Approfondimenti per una semiotica della strategia.”, in: Bozzo, L., (a cura di), Studi strategici. Guerra, politica, economia, semiotica, psicoanalisi, matematica, Milano, Egea-Bocconi.

Fontanille, J., 1999, (a cura di), Modes du sensible et syntaxe figurative, Actes Sémiotiques, NN. 61-62-63.

Kahn, H., 1962, Thinking about the Unthinkable, New York, Horizon Press.

Keegan, J., 1976, The Face of Battle, London, Jonathan Cape; trad. it. 1978, Il volto della battaglia, Milano, Mondadori.

Joxe, A., 1991, Voyage aux sources de la guerre, Paris, PUF.

Montanari, F., 2015, “Ripensare la Grande Guerra: ancora a proposito di “Viva Caporetto! La rivolta dei santi maledetti”, di Curzio Malaparte”, Between, vol. 5, N. 10.

Paret, P., 1997, Imagined Battles, Chapel Hill & London, The University of North Carolina Press.

Puiseux, H., 1997, Les figures de la guerre, Paris, Gallimard.

Virilio, P., 1991, L’écran du désert. Chroniques de guerre, Paris, Galilée.

Wesley, E., J., Lieutenant General USA, Simpson R., H., Colonel USA, 2020, “Expanding the Battlefield: An Important Fundamental of Multi-Domain Operations,” Land Warfare Paper, 131- April 2020,


Deadline for submission of essays: 20 January 2024

Deadline for submission of revised essays: 20 March 2024

Publication: March 2024


Papers should have a maximum length of 40000 characters and may be submitted together with an abstract in English of a maximum of 1000 characters.


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