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The Debts of War

Bifurcated Veterans’ Mobilization and Political Order in Post-settlement El Salvador

Ralph Sprenkels

Abstract

This article examines mobilization by civil war veterans of the insurgency and the government army. These veterans became a major political force in postwar El Salvador. I demonstrate that the ascendency of the war veterans hinged on the combination of two types of mobilization: “internal” mobilization for partisan leverage, and public mobilization to place claims on the state. By this bifurcated mobilization, veterans from both sides of the war pursued clientelist benefits and postwar political influence. Salvadoran veterans’ struggles for recognition revolve around attempts to transform what the veterans perceive as the “debts of war” into postwar political order. The case of El Salvador highlights the versatility and resilience of veterans’ struggles in post-settlement contexts in which contention shifted from military confrontation to electoral competition.

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Departheid

The Draconian Governance of Illegalized Migrants in Western States

Barak Kalir

Abstract

This article proposes the term Departheid to capture the systemic oppression and spatial management of illegalized migrants in Western liberal states. As a concept, Departheid aims to move beyond the instrumentality of illegalizing migration in order to comprehend the tenacity with which oppressive measures are implemented even in the face of accumulating evidence for their futility in managing migration flows and the harm they cause to millions of people. The article highlights continuities between present oppressive migration regimes and past colonial configurations for controlling the mobility of what Hannah Arendt has called “subject races.” By drawing on similarities with Apartheid as a governing ideology based on racialization, segregation, and deportation, I argue that Departheid, too, is animated by a sense of moral superiority that is rooted in a fantasy of White supremacy.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Awkward

The Making of War Veterans in Postindependence Mozambique

Nikkie Wiegink

Abstract

This article traces the emergence of three categories of war veterans in postindependence Mozambique: former fighters of the liberation war against the Portuguese colonial administration, the former soldiers of the Mozambican Armed Forces, and former Renamo combatants who both fought in the postindependence war. The article follows the emergence, negotiation, contestation, and transformations of these categories through memory politics, bureaucratic practices of inclusion and exclusion, and veterans’ collective political practices “from below.” By showing how some war veterans are come to be regarded as “worthy” of privileged state resources and others as enemies of the state, while again others are in an in-between position, the article shows how war veterans come to occupy specific citizenship positions and that these positions are contingent and changeable over time.

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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.