"What makes the war" : everyday life in a military community
This dissertation investigates the various levels at which the multi-scaled dynamics of war take shape in the everyday, embodied lives of the people whose job it is to produce it—soldiers and their families and communities at and around Ft. Hood, in central Texas. As the largest military installation in the world and the single biggest point of deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan for all U.S. forces, Ft. Hood and its surround may represent the greatest single concentration of Americans directly involved in the production of global military force outside of Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. The repercussions of war and routinized war-making extend throughout the lives of the people who inhabit, serve and surround the base.
The length, scale and distinct character of the Iraq War have exposed these soldiers and their family members to new and chronic hardships and forms of vulnerability, including the stresses of longer and more frequent tours, unprecedented rates of posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, overburdened institutional supports, and an abundance of extreme characterizations of soldiers in American public culture. These vulnerabilities are bodily and affective, intersubjective and shared, and bases for scrutiny and recognition.
I base my analysis on the difficult and distinctive role that the soldier occupies as at once the agent, instrument and object of state violence. The soldier’s life is simultaneously shaped by discipline, empowered by the right to kill, and allowed to be exposed to harm and death. I use soldiers’ “exceptional” status as a starting point for understanding the dense sets of material, institutional, discursive, and social relations in which they are embedded. The dissertation chapters are organized around broad themes that emerged from my informants’ words, actions and experiences and that capture the impacts of war across diverse arenas of everyday life. I treat each theme as a field within which to explore not merely the effects of war, but its lived affects—-the “feelings” of war that are the variously sensory, psychic and emotional imprints of the everyday, organized production of military violence.