Ambivalent Anticipations

On Soldierly Becomings in the Desert of the Real

in The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology
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  • 1 Royal Danish Defence College thpe@fak.dk
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Abstract

What if war is not hell? What if war is not entertainment? What if war is, instead, the stuff dreams are made of? What is one then to anticipate of one's tour of duty in a war zone? In this article, I interrogate anticipations in relation to soldierly becomings through deployment to Afghanistan. Based on ethnographic fieldwork with Danish combat troops, I explore the uneasy coexistence of two anticipatory plotlines: ‘the passion’ and ‘the desert’. The former depicts the tour of duty as a heroic adventure driven by desire for real combat, while the latter casts deployment as an anti-heroic misadventure imposed by the dull reality in theatre. I argue that anticipation can harbour ambivalent, even antagonistic, yet simultaneous expectations of what might come. I show that anticipation is further blurred, as our anticipatory horizons are tied not only to our unsettled plotlines of becoming but also to our being's existential imperative.

Contributor Notes

Thomas Randrup Pedersen is Assistant Professor at the Royal Danish Defence College's Institute for the Study of Military History, Culture and War. He received his PhD from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen in 2017. His dissertation explores Danish soldiering as a project of existential, moral and social becoming. He has contributed to ‘Studying the Military’, a special issue of Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology (forthcoming) and to Civil-Military Entanglements: Anthropological Perspectives (Sørensen and Ben-Ari [eds], forthcoming). His latest publication in English is ‘Get Real: Chasing Danish Warrior Dreams in the Afghan “Sandbox”’ in Critical Military Studies (2017).

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