Individual bodies, collective state interests: The case of Israeli combat soldiers

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Abstract

The primary question this article raises is how democratic societies, whose liberal values seem to contradict the coercive values of the military, persuade men to enlist and participate in fighting. The author argues that part of the answer lies in alternative interpretation of transformative bodily and emotional practices. Drawing on in-depth interviews with Israeli combat soldiers, the author claims that the warrior's bodily and emotional practices are constituted through two opposing discursive regimes: self-control and thrill. The nexus of these two themes promotes an individualized interpretation frame of militarized practices, which blurs the boundaries between choice and coercion, presents mandatory military service as a fulfilling self-actualization, and enables soldiers to ignore the political and moral meanings of their actions. Thus, the individualized body and emotion management of the combat soldier serves the symbolic and pragmatic interests of the state, as it reinforces the cooperation between hegemonic masculinity and Israeli militarism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296-321
Number of pages26
JournalMen and Masculinities
Volume10
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2008

Keywords

  • Body and emotion management
  • Collectivism
  • Combat soldiers
  • Hegemonic masculinity
  • Individualism
  • Israeli society
  • Military

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