Endurance

Friday, 21 November 2014 12:51
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I went to a talk on Weds at the Imperial War Museum, reflecting on WWI and today, and "What Makes Soldiers Fight". A lot of thoughts to be written up about that (around both the content but also the 'performance' as it were, of the talk).

But the opening panelist talked to not only the motivations of Great War soldiers to enlist, but the mentality of resilience that made them endure the duration of the conflict. Reading this article just now "The Two Deaths of Crazy Fakhir", brought this quality back to mind. Fakhir fought in today's Iraq conflict - his endurance was that despite losing a leg in 2008 he continued working to disarm IEDs until one finally killed him last week. His endurance was his drive to continue to work, to protect others from IEDs.

Today, we often cite the motivations and endurance of the Great War soldiers, and the resilience of the citizens, as something unique to its time, utterly discrete and try though we may to draw parallels and understanding for today's environment, we may not be successful or appropriate in doing so.

Fakhir's example of one individual's continued drive to participate, contribute and make a difference in their conflict is the kind of motivation we probably should laud all the more, not least when attempting to devise policy from understanding of just where armed forces (and indeed individuals) sit within society.

 
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The following call for papers landed in my inbox. Not something I would be able to contribute to, but hugely interesting. Wounds as a way of mapping and measuring...my fellow PhD victim made me articulate why I was using gender as my yardstick to measure conceptualisation over the other day. But she did so by asking what other means I could have used, and wounds was certainly not something that crossed my mind. I feel this is prodding some thoughts - what, I'm not yet sure of. But its certainly starting...something.

Thousands of soldiers are returning to their respective home fronts––such as in the U.S., Fiji, Canada, Britain, Puerto Rico, Australia, and Sweden––after their tours of duty in the U.S.-led Global War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. Scholars, policy experts, and the public are increasingly turning their attention to the multiple struggles of veterans’

experiences––such as the visible and invisible wounds of war––on both the homefront and the warfront. These national and global discourses on the soldier’s wounded body often circulate through dominant narrative practices and multiple transnational media imaginaries. Veterans returning from war set “the standard of soldiering” (Eichler 2013) and these standards are often measured according to national discourses of the Wounded Warrior Hero whose honour is valorised through the visible and tangible appearance of missing limbs and other bodily mutilations categorized as official combat wounds.

These hegemonic narratives however conjure up several questions: How does the privileging of combat wounds address, marginalize, or make invisible other forms of wounding that may be produced by processes of militarization? How does multiplying our understandings of “injuries” sustained through “service” provide a more nuanced conceptualization of the military as a gendered institution? This panel presents a series of papers which probe the meaning of military wounding through investigations of combat wounds, sexual assault in the military, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the “visible” and “invisible” effects of war on soldiers’ and civilians’ bodies on the homefront/warfront. It seeks to interrogate sustained gendered, racial, sexual, and colonial hierarchies and their implications for gendered citizenship both in relation to military service and in contemporary national and global cultures.

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Stephanie Szitanyi

PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science Rutgers University Hickman Hall

89 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901

May 2015

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