Military, masculinity, and citizenship: Tensions and contradictions in the experience of blue-collar soldiers

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Abstract

This article seeks to problematize the relationship between military service, masculinity, and citizenship, from the perspective of lower-class soldiers who serve in blue-collar roles in the Israeli military. Introducing class and ethnicity into the "taken for granted" equation of men, military, and the state reveals counter-hegemonic conceptions of masculinity and citizenship, and exposes tense and often contradictory relationships between them. Based on in-depth interviews, I argue that blue-collar Israeli soldiers simultaneously accept and challenge the hegemonic Zionist conceptions of both masculinity and citizenship. Unlike the combat soldiers, blue-collar soldiers demonstrate gender and national identities that are not anchored in military life. Rather, these soldiers present an alternative version of "home-based masculinity," which grants the family superiority over the military and the state. This masculinity is expressed through two recurring themes: ongoing resistance to military discipline and authority, and an emphasis on the role of the provider over the role of the soldier. Through these daily military practices, the soldiers express their rejection of the republican "principle of contribution" as a criterion to one's belonging to the collective. However, their conception of citizenship emphasizes a militant ethno-national discourse. The discrepancy between their anti-militaristic practices and their militant patriotism reflects their ambivalent socio-political location in Israeli society between their preferred location as Jews and their marginal location as Mizrachim of lower classes. These ambivalent identities reveal that a mutual affirming connection between the military, masculinity, and the state exists only for hegemonic groups. For non-hegemonic groups, the relationship between masculinity, military, and citizenship is ridden with conflicts and inner contradictions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-345
Number of pages27
JournalIdentities
Volume10
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Blue-collar soldiers
  • Citizenship
  • Israel
  • Masculinity
  • Military service

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