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Introduction

War Veterans and the Construction of Citizenship Categories

Nikkie Wiegink, Ralph Sprenkels, and Birgitte Refslund Sørensen

Abstract

War veterans often constitute a specific category of citizens as they inspire and bring forward particular claims on recognition and resources of the state. The authors featured in this special section each explore processes of the construction of categories of war veterans in different contemporary contexts. Drawing on ethnographic data, the contributions explore the interactions between (those identified) as war veterans and the state, and the processes concerned with granting value to participation in war. This involves (the denial of) rights and privileges as well as a process of identity construction. The construction of war veterans as a specific kind of citizens is a political phenomenon, subject to negotiation and contestation, involving both the external categorizations of war veterans as well as the self-making and identity politics from former fighters “from below.”

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Invisible Veterans

Defeated Militants and Enduring Revolutionary Social Values in Dhufar, Oman

Alice Wilson

Abstract

Those who have participated in organized political violence often develop distinctive identities as veteran combatants. But what possibilities exist to produce a veteran identity for “invisible” veterans denied public recognition or mention, such as politically repressed defeated insurgents? Everyday socializing during or after political violence can help restore social worlds threatened or destroyed by violence; an examination of “invisible” veteran defeated revolutionaries in Dhufar, Oman, shows how everyday socializing can help reproduce a distinctive veteran identity despite political repression. Ethnographic fieldwork with veteran militants from the defeated revolutionary liberation movement for Dhufar reveals that while veterans (who are a diverse group) no longer publicly reproduce their political and economic revolutionary ideals, some male veterans—through everyday, same-sex socializing—reproduce revolutionary ideals of social, especially tribal and ethnic, egalitarianism. These practices mark a distinctive veteran identity and indicate an “afterlife” of lasting social legacies of defeated revolution.

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Liberation Autochthony

Namibian Veteran Politics and African Citizenship Claims

Lalli Metsola

Abstract

This article examines Namibian ex-combatant and veteran politics in the context of African claims and struggles over citizenship. Namibian veteran politics has unfolded as long-term negotiation between claimants and political authorities over recognition, realization of citizenship, and legitimacy. This process has operated through repeated claims and responses, material techniques such as employment and compensation, and changing delimitations of the categories of ex-combatant and veteran. Compared with citizenship struggles elsewhere in Africa, particularly the much-discussed surge of autochthony and ethnonationalism, this article discusses how the institutional environment and the particular histories of those involved have influenced modes of claim-making and logics of inclusion and exclusion. It finds that the citizenship politics of Namibian veterans are not based on explicit “cultural” markers of difference but still do construct significant differentiation through a scale of patriotism based on precedence in “liberation.”

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Processes of Territorialization in Mexico

Indigenous Government, Violence, and Comunalidad

Philipp Wolfesberger

Abstract

Current violence and insecurity have transformed many aspects of social life in Mexico. In this article, I will analyze how the different configurations of indigenous autonomous government in Cherán and Tlahuitoltepec are viable forms of social organization for providing local security through their relationship with communal territory. In the initial theoretic discussion, I define territorialization as a dynamic process that includes multiple actors, involves a collaborative claim over land and is grounded in violence. In the empiric part, I focus on the processes of territorialization that encompass the relation of indigenous autonomous government, violence, and comunalidad. The (violent) conflicts over hegemonic projects are compound in this study by the autonomous indigenous government and their linkages with the state apparatus of representative democracy.

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Seeking Recognition, Becoming Citizens

Achievements and Grievances among Former Combatants from Three Wars

Johanna Söderström

Abstract

How do former combatants understand and make themselves into a citizen category? Through exploring the life narratives of former combatants from three different wars (Namibia, Colombia, and United States–Vietnam), this article locates similarities in the claims for recognition. The achievements or the grievances associated with the war and their homecoming made them deserving of special recognition from the state, the country, or other veterans. These claims situate these veterans in a political landscape, where they are called upon to mend and affirm the relation with the state, achieve recognition from society, and defend their fellows, which inform their citizenship practices, as it shaped their political mobilization and perceived political status. Through seeking recognition, they affirm their role as citizens.

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To Be or Not to Be a Hero

Recognition and Citizenship among Disabled Veterans of the Sri Lankan Army

Matti Weisdorf and Birgitte Refslund Sørensen

Abstract

Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in and around a so-called War Hero Village (Ranavirugama) in northwestern Sri Lanka, this article traces the social (un)becomings of Sri Lankan Army veterans injured during the civil war with the Tamil liberation front. It argues that such veterans have long been able to draw on a materially rewarding narrative of sacrifice and carnal capital—epitomized in the honorific ranaviru (war hero)—in order to produce a particular kind of veteran citizenship, let alone subjectivity, and thus to pursue socially meaningful post-injury existences. In the eyes of the veterans themselves, however, this celebratory narrative is eroding and a “collective narrative” characterized by a kind of social forgetting of the injured veteran is emerging. Material benefits notwithstanding, this narrative contestation entails a “struggle for recognition” that threatens to leave them not only disabled but also with no one to be, or become.

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Unbecoming Veteranship

Convicted Military Officers in Post-authoritarian Argentina

Eva van Roekel and Valentina Salvi

Abstract

In post-authoritarian Argentina, veterans who participated in the brutal counterinsurgency of the last dictatorship (1976–1983) inhabit an extremely inconsistent citizenship, alternatively violating and respecting legal rights and entitlements. This article looks at how alternating transitional justice practices and the ever-changing moral discourses about warfare and accountability create highly unstable access to rights, resources, and entitlements for these veterans in Argentina. The recent shift toward retribution for crimes against humanity in Argentina has legally consolidated their moral downfall. From being untouchable and exemplary officers until the early 1980s, the now convicted military officers have been demoted twice by the state and the military institution. Based on long-term fieldwork with the convicted officers and their kin, this article traces the contingent relation between the moral and legal practices that underlie this double downfall that constitutes a fluctuating process of un/becoming veteranship for these veterans. Their veteranship, for that matter, depends on highly conflictive and transformative sociopolitical processes that speak to broader moral dispositions surrounding legal rights, entitlements, and worthiness for veterans.

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Unintended Securitization

Military, Medical, and Political-Security Discourses in the Humanitarian Treatment of Syrian Casualties in Israel

Hedva Eyal and Limor Samimian-Darash

Abstract

In this article, we examine statements by state officials and individuals from the military and the medical establishment regarding the provision of medical aid by Israel to casualties from the Syrian Civil War. We argue discussions of this project have been characterized by three different discourses, each dominant at different times, which we classify as military, medical, and political-security. We propose “unintended securitization” to describe how the project moved from the military into the medical-civilian and then into the political sphere, and came to be seen as advancing the security interests of the Israeli state. We argue the relationship between humanitarianism and securitization seen here challenges the view that humanitarian apparatuses are often subordinated to military rationales by showing how securitization here emerged from the demilitarization of what was initially a military project.

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Erin R. Eldridge

Abstract

Coal ash, the waste generated at coal-burning power plants, is one of the largest waste streams in the United States, and it contains a range of contaminants, including arsenic and mercury. Disasters at coal ash waste sites in recent years have led to increased public scrutiny of coal ash in communities and have sparked policy debates, lawsuits, and complaints throughout the country. With emphasis on federal and state coal ash policies since the 1970s, this article highlights the synthesis of government and corporate power in coal ash politics, and the bureaucratic processes affecting communities near coal ash sites. Based on ethnographic research following the 2008 Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash disaster, as well as preliminary research on the “social life” of coal ash in North Carolina, this article specifically offers ethnographic insight into the lived experiences of social and ecological violence created, perpetuated, and normalized through bureaucratic processes.

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Peter Hervik

Abstract

This afterword offers reflections on some major points of this section concerning the generative power linking moral outrage to political violence. The authors have successfully taken up a topic of immense relevance and urgency in contemporary society. Their efforts are a first important step to address this from an empirical, analytical, and theoretical framework. In the afterword, I seek to add further perspectives to some of the findings, including a focus on moral outrage that situates it not strictly within personality as a preexisting universal that waits for someone to wake it up but rather in an approach to emotions as embedded within cultural understandings with an emphasis on the strategic side of the production of moral outrage in creating both positive and negative change.