Diagnosis, Vulnerability, and the Embodied Life of War-Making

22 November 2018

ABSTRACT: 

It is a key feature of war-making that military service members are exposed to war violence with one purpose, and their participation in and subjection to violence is not an accident. Dominant narratives of war experience that celebrate military exceptionalism and clinical categorizations that classify violence as inherently traumatic are all too often inattentive to this brute reality. This talk draws on over ten years of ethnographic fieldwork and cultural analysis with current and former post-9/11 US military service members to explore the fundamental vulnerability of embodied military life. Drawing on soldiers’ and veterans’ own accounts and trajectories and reflecting on sites ranging from military bases to clinical spaces to legal and therapeutic labels for “disordered” military subjects, I critically examine the way that the diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has come to serve as a durable and unquestioned catch-all for the various and contradictory entailments of living with a body that is an instrument and object of violence. Attending to everyday lived experiences of war and its aftermath and to American cultural narratives around war, I show how “PTSD” and its kindred labels shape soldiers’ relationship to their work, veterans’ well-being and identity in their post-military lives, and the politics of US military policy and state violence.

BIO:

Kenneth MacLeish is an Assistant Professor of Medicine, Health and Society and Anthropology at Vanderbilt University in the United States. He studies how war, broadly considered, takes shape in the everyday lives of people whose job it is to produce it: US military service members and their families and communities. His most recent book, Making War: Everyday Life at Ft. Hood, draws on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork at and around the US Army’s Fort Hood in Texas. 

Event details

  • When: 1.00pm - 2.30pm
  • Where: Room 650, Social Science Building, Science Road, University of Sydney
  • Cost: Free
  • Contact: Gorana Grgic, Seminar Coordinator
    T: +61 2 8627 0128
    E: gorana.grgic@sydney.edu.au
  • Speaker/ Performer: Kenneth MacLeish 


Diagnosis, Vulnerability, and the Embodied Life of War-Making

Where Room 650, Social Science Building, Science Road, University of Sydney When

22 November 2018


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