As the Cold War was deepening, Dwight Eisenhower coined the term “military-industrial complex” in his farewell presidential address of January 1961, warning of its “grave implications” and “unwarranted influence.” The term may have a longer history, and militarism, the force driving its formation, is certainly not unique to that period or to any one part of the globe. Yet the United States remains the world’s largest arms supplier and is directly or indirectly linked to many of the world’s unresolved conflicts. In this issue about the effects of militarism on people’s everyday lives across multiple countries, the shadow cast by US militarism is long: You-me Park refers to the legacy of US military bases in South Korea, including sexual abuse cases against US military personnel, while Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian details how ongoing US military support to Israel has enabled the long catastrophe for Palestinians. In a like vein, the Turkish state, whose secularist military Mahiye Secil Dagtas analyzes, expects the United States to ignore its bloody crackdowns in its southeastern region in exchange for use of the military base there. Harriet Gray and Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes track the fallout from US-led military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan; Elizabeth Mesok critiques the gendered personnel practices of US militaries; Alicia C. Decker, Summer Forester, and Eliot Blackburn comment on the transfer of US military values and equipment to college campuses; Ericka Huggins reflects on the legacy of the Black Panther resistance; Patricia Joan Saunders describes art that emerges in response to US-inspired military operations in Jamaica; Janet Norman Knox riffs on the gendered logics of the Cold War; and Lisa Parks analyzes US propagation of new drone technology. In effect, this new issue of Feminist Studies challenges US exceptionalism even as it explores how militarism undergirds it.
Feminist critiques of war are international, and political scientist Cynthia Enloe was one of the first feminist theorists to substantively engage the concept and process of militarization as it manifests in patriarchal or male/masculine dominated societies; as it is revealed during armed conflicts and nationalist struggles, as evidenced in “occupied” zones and other arenas of imperial encounter; and as it permeates civilian cultures that contain or engage formal military organizations and their civilian counterparts, militarized police forces. Enloe’s definition of militarization as the step-by-step process by which something becomes controlled by, dependent on, or derives its value from the military as an institution or militaristic criteria serves as an explicit and implicit framework for many of the articles in this issue of the journal. Other scholars, such as Anuradha Chenoy in her study of Militarism and Women in South Asia, note the distinction between militarization as the technical build-up of arms, munitions, surveillance, and military techniques; and militarism, “the array of customs, actions, and thought associated with armies and wars...(and) an ideology that has fixed ideas on issues like gender, class, caste and autonomy.” The articles in this issue explore both militarism and militarization and engage practices from a variety of locations and standpoints.
This issue calls attention to how crucial existing social and political hierarchies—especially of gender, race, and nation—are to the formal and informal military and state structures that produce and demand allegiance to militaristic values. Several articles provide rich examples of the relationship between militaries, military personnel, military families, and civilian populations. Park, Parks, and Mesok all call attention to the deep linkages between militarisms, militarization, and neoliberalism in the United States as foundational to both the US global presence and US forces’ conduct of sanctioned, or seemingly condoned, violence while operating as “peacekeepers,” combatants, and compatriots. In turn, articles by Shalhoub-Kevorkian; Dagtas; Gray; Decker, Forester, and Blackburn; and the interview of Ericka Huggins by Lisa Rofel and Jeremy Tai highlight the power of life-story narratives for exposing the deep and unhealed wounding that accompanies exile, military/police brutality, and the violence that infiltrates Palestinian domesticity, British military households, Turkish secularism, and university campuses in the United States. The creative work in this issue, including Saunders’s essay on the art of Ebony G. Patterson, Rhodes’s poem, and excerpts from a play by Knox, join in this effort to unveil the costs—psychic and corporeal—of militarization, suggesting the importance of grieving the dead and drawing attention to the traces of violence that linger.
Taken together, the works in this issue unearth the foundations of informal or formal military structures—the family on the one hand and law on the other—exposing the heteropatriarchal, gendered, class, and racial dimensions and hierarchies on which militarism thrives. Mesok and Gray (as well as Decker, Forester, and Blackburn) explore the militarization of US and British civilian life. Both Mesok and Gray make visible the elision of the violent martial culture that is a critical aspect of the US and British militaries respectively and that serves to excuse, or implicitly condone, the violence perpetrated by military personnel against female military personnel and civilian partners through language defining this violence as either an “occupational hazard” (Mesok) or a “spillover” of the “violence inherent in militarized geopolitics” into the “previously nonmilitarized sphere of everyday life” (Gray).
You-me Park’s article, “The Crucible of Sexual Violence: Militarized Masculinities and the Abjection of Life in Post-Crisis, Neoliberal South Korea,” contrasts the public outcry over the sexual abuse of institutionalized deaf and disabled children revealed in a true-to-life novel (The Crucible) to the sexual abuse by male US military personnel against young Korean women. The reaction to the exposť of the former was swift and resulted in the immediate passing of protectionist legislation, which resulted in strong penalties for the sexual abuse of children. By contrast, the protest over sexual abuse of teenage Korean women by US soldiers did not produce immediate results. Park connects the outcry in South Korea generated by the film version of The Crucible with the United Nations Landmark Resolution on Women, Peace, and Security, which was implemented in the wake of the mass sexual violence that was used as a weapon of war in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia, insofar as the resulting legislation in both cases was a form of protectionism that placed the victims of the violence in the same frame. Park notes that while disability rights activists have fought against the marginalizing placement of people with disabilities in specialized institutions of care, the film adaptation of The Crucible, rather than criticizing the system that isolated and rendered children with disabilities vulnerable to abuse, reinscribed them as primarily in need of protection. Unlike the novel, which is critical of military masculinity and carries a divorced mother of two as its hero, the film reinstates the male soldier as the savior of the children with disabilities. Park notes that although South Korea is not at war, its paranoia about impending war with North Korea valorizes “able-bodied, full-blooded” men in contrast to people with disabilities. She links this valorization to a culture of militarized rape that sees Asian women as only violable and abject. She notes also that the practice of US military prostitution is heavily racialized; she contextualizes how demands for African-American equality within the military were displaced onto Korean sex workers’ refusals to service Black servicemen in South Korean military camps.
In her article on sexual violence and the US military, Elizabeth Mesok starts with a relatively simple question: How do we explain the emergent alliance between previously antiwar liberal feminists and promilitary advocacy groups such as the Service Women’s Action Network? She makes visible the reliance of both these new allies and military leaders on the presumption that military women’s increased presence—rather than the structure of the military itself—is at the core of sexual violence and harassment of female military personnel. She critically examines the belief that as soon as women gain “equality” in the military—as “warriors” similar to their male compatriots—the violence and harassment they have faced at the hands of these same compatriots will cease. She notes that liberal feminists’ and military leaders’ focus on equality in the military for women as the “solution” to sexual violence elides the fact that “equality” of pay, opportunity, and access—the bread-and-butter issues for liberal feminists—have never included an “equal distribution of wealth and resources.” By interrogating the history of military civil rights movements’ quest for equality, Mesok simultaneously clarifies the limitations of a framework of “liberal equality” and the “principles of liberal feminism,” both of which seek equality through a “sameness” narrative, a narrative that does not question—and in fact leaves securely in place—the masculine subject as the default standard. Here Mesok gestures toward a key question Enloe has raised, “At what point does women’s effective agency, paradoxically, not roll back militarization, but integrate women ever more thoroughly into a militarized culture?”
Mahiye Secil Dagtas addresses this question by looking at the ways in which women married to Turkish military officers may both advance military-nationalist ideals and also at times interrupt or challenge such ideals. Turkey has seen three military coups since its founding and long periods of military rule. It may be heading in that direction again with escalating state violence against the minority Kurdish community, which has resulted in military crackdowns, increasing numbers of civilian deaths, and indefinite curfews. Dagta’s article, “The Personal in the Collective: Rethinking the Secular Subject in Relation to the Military, Wifehood, and Islam in Turkey,” shows, through the life stories of Turkish military wives, how the state itself uses women’s bodies and the subjectivities of the military ruling class to advance secularist logics. In exploring the gendered paradoxes and affective registers of secular power in Turkey, Dagtas demonstrates how the military is the bedrock institution in the intertwined projects of Turkish secularism and nationalism. Dagtas suggests that it is through policing women’s bodies and familial selves, within and outside of institutional spaces, that the Turkish state has actively polarized political identities along the secular/religious divide. In particular, Dagtas focuses on the inversion between the individualized and collective positionalities of military wives, some of whom choose to cover and some of whom do not, in order to complicate the binary categorizations of identity along the secular/religious divide.
In another kind of analysis of military wives, Harriet Gray, through her study of the domestic abuse of civilian wives and partners by male British military personnel, critiques the ways that popular, “top-down” discourses (including military, academic, and news media) assign the causality of domestic abuse by male British military personnel against their civilian partners to the legacies of their military service function, including their resultant PTSD. Gray points out that this formulation “depoliticize[s] and...(re)produce[s] everyday forms of militarism,” which are produced by and bolster the “masculine heterosexual identity” that is central to the structure (and form) of the British military. Interviewing victim-survivors, perpetrators, and members of government-sponsored social support agencies on the question of British servicemen’s violence against their civilian wives, Gray finds that the normative understandings of the causes of domestic abuse was not confirmed in these interviews. Indeed, the majority of the victim-survivors she interviewed indicated that their husbands had been violent before joining the military or before being deployed. However, because of the prevailing “common sense” that deployment and reintegration (and especially PTSD) cause domestic abuse, they saw their own experiences as anomalous. Gray holds that the medical discourses that name the psychological trauma resulting from military deployment as causal in domestic abuse, as well as the explanations for such abuse as the result of “extraordinary experiences” during deployment, work together to elide the “gendered structures of everyday life” that are the basis of the dominance and control characteristic of and foundational to military forces.
In another analysis of personal trauma and its relationship to militarized violence, Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s article, “Infiltrated Intimacies: The Case of Palestinian Returnees,” explores the continuing socio-historical trauma following the 1948 Nakba (the military expulsion of Palestinians from their lands) and its remaking of Palestinian domestic life as a traumatic wound. She focuses specifically on Palestinian women’s struggles to return home, despite being labeled “infiltrators” by the Israeli state. By drawing borders through Palestinian lands, resettling territory, and naming Israeli Jews as “true” citizens, the Israeli state, through force of law and military might, transformed displaced returnees into criminals and “infiltrators” in their own ancestral homes. Analyzing women’s narratives that recount their experiences of the period between 1948 and 1953 within the context of a settler-colonial regime of control, Shalhoub-Kevorkian explores Israel’s criminalization of the return of Palestinian refugees, in contradistinction to the unspoken gendered history of trauma that infiltrates the intimate space of women’s bodies and subjective family experiences. Shalhoub-Kevorkian shows how the Israeli state “fissured Palestinians’ ‘homes’ at each link in the chain: nation, land, community, and family.” Palestinian women’s life-histories come to reflect how the Nakba of rupture or displacement leads to the transformation of domestic life into an unhealed wound. Using the Foucauldian notion of biopolitics to describe how the Israeli state’s military rule extends into Palestinian women’s loss of control over even their own bodily fluids—menstrual blood and breast milk—Shalhoub-Kevorkian illuminates the hidden dimensions of everyday militarism as they are intimately gendered.
Exploring the hidden ramifications of everyday militarism also animates the reflections offered by Decker, Forester, and Blackburn in their coauthored article, “Rethinking Everyday Militarism on Campus: Feminist Reflections on the Fatal Shooting at Purdue University.” The genesis of this article was the meeting of a professor and two students from very different backgrounds during a course titled “Gender, War, and Militarism” at Purdue University. Two weeks into the semester, the three became witness-bystanders to a fatal shooting on campus. The class sought to address the ways in which militarism “as a gendered ideology and militarization as a gendered process” affect daily life in the United States. With Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin implementing “campus-carry” laws, Decker asks us to consider the links between gun culture and militarism, as well as the many ways that Purdue (and other US colleges and universities) are linked to formal military institutions. Forester, in turn, asks that we ponder the commodification of the military in “boot camp” style gym classes, noting too, the simultaneous valorization of armed rescuers (“good guys” with guns) and the vilification of those professors who continued classes after the Purdue shooting. Blackburn, pointing to the high level of surveillance on Purdue’s campus—ostensibly in place to prevent/preempt violence—juxtaposes the ongoing harassment and threats of violence faced by LGBTQ students with the failure of security cameras to prevent the campus shooting. He notes the irony of the surveillance equipment’s subsequent capture of police aggression in arresting a student journalist in an incident that was shown to be inaccurately (even falsely) documented in the police report by a surveillance video, which the Purdue administration refused to release. Blackburn asks that we consider the “precarious relationship between those who purport to protect and those who are supposed to be protected.” Like Park’s analysis of the contradictions of protectionism, these reflections highlight the ways that university campuses, commonplace product advertising, and increasing levels of surveillance, ostensibly to protect campus communities, both normalize and promote militarism.
A creative piece by Janet Norman Knox, excerpts from her play “Coursework in Cross-Cultural Relations: 9 Gs and the Red Telephone,” also explores the relationship between militarism and the quotidian lives of the civilian poplation by highlighting the everyday normalization of Cold War-era militarism. She playfully explores understandings of cultural boundaries between the United States and the USSR, addressing issues of gender roles through a “dialogue” between the fictional Betty Crocker—the symbol of woman as domestic cook—and the historically real Valya Tereshkova—the first woman to fly in space.
A critical engagement with the more contemporary problem of surveillance technology defines Lisa Parks’s News and Views essay, “Drones, Vertical Mediation, and the Targeted Class.” She describes the neoliberal spread of drones into the vital but mundane features of life (policing, reporting, property speculation, public safety, and media culture) and poses the question of whether such proliferation destabilizes their military origins or extends them. In noting that it is difficult to distinguish media and communication from militarization, she points to the work of Caren Kaplan and Rey Chow who argue that GIS and GPS spatializing technologies incorporate everyone into a war culture since they familiarize people with the monitoring and surveillance processes that are fundamental to virtual war technologies through the ubiquitous use of information channels, mobile phones, and digital cameras. Parks describes the racialized optics of drone technology as it is deployed along the US-Mexico border and in the Middle East and South Asia. She also finds drone technology to be gendered in feminized terms as compared to advances in robotics that enable male soldiers to become hypermobile machinelike assemblages. As Parks explains, “drone warfare is organized through systems of remote control, simulation, and gaming” that simultaneously assist “grounded and embodied” warfare that includes new kinds of bodies and machines. Parks uses the idea of “vertical mediation” to describe how “technology uses the vertical field in efforts to materially reform life on earth.” At a time when one in three drone strikes results in civilian casualties, as a 2010 study found, it is clear that aerial monitoring and bombardment create new targeted classes that defy simple boundaries of citizenship.
The idea of a targeted class is also present in Patricia Joan Saunders’s art essay, “Gardening in the Garrisons, You Never Know What You Will Find: (Un)Visibility in the Works of Ebony G. Patterson,” which explores how Caribbean artist Ebony Patterson, like many of her peers, uses neocolonial tropes of tropical paradise to create different practices of “seeing.” Saunders observes that Patterson twins lush tropical tones with the theme of lurking menace to destabilize the idea of an exotic Caribbean. One of Patterson’s central pieces, Of 72, memorializes the lives of those lost in the extended military siege of the Tivoli Garden neighborhood of Kingston, Jamaica, on May 24, 2010. Cynically called “Operation Garden Parish,” the Jamaican military operation, allegedly conducted at the behest of the United States, sought to capture drug baron Christopher “Dudus” Coke, but in the process disappeared seventy-two members of the community after a brutal house-to-house sweep. Security forces rounded up residents, interrogated unarmed men of fighting age on the spot, and sent more than a thousand people to detention centers; many of them were killed while in custody. Saunders highlights Patterson’s Of 72 as a political act of remembering, with its photographs of the dead and “disappeared” placed on brightly covered bandanas, using vibrant color to point to violent excess. She quotes the artist: “As long as the identities of these people remain masked [it’s] going to be quite easy for us to just carry on...you know continue—it’s the least I can do as a concerned citizen, to kind of etch this episode into history, so that these people are not forgotten.”
Lisa Rofel and Jeremy Tai’s interview with former Black Panther activist Ericka Huggins also points powerfully to the need to remember and to retell stories of the dead as a means of rebuilding communities in struggle. Now a prison rights activist, Huggins, whose husband John Huggins was gunned down on the UCLA campus in 1969, insists that the memory of violence also be accompanied by spiritual practices of healing; that there be space for grieving. Huggins’s concern for the walking wounded resonates powerfully with Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s understanding of what it is for the Palestinian community and Palestinian women, in particular, to bear an unhealed wound. Even as Parks’s article alerts us to the ways in which geography serves as a proxy for identifying a targeted class of people, Huggins asks us to consider that “Ferguson” as a geographic space should not become the shorthand for remembering Michael Brown’s life. As Patterson achieves through her art, so Huggins seeks to restore memory to individuals with names, faces, families, and lost lives.
If in places such as Tivoli Gardens or Ferguson, we see the ways in which military technology is fused to police brutality, Huggins also productively marks how militants (a label applied by the state to Black Panthers and other revolutionaries) and militarism might be linked. Militarism in this case involves the insidious ways in which the state used counterinsurgency measures, such as COINTELPRO, to divide communities, distorting in this instance, the rich legacy of the Black Panthers. This legacy is one that she remembers as vibrant and adaptable to changing circumstances, and one that also carries with it an internationalist critique of the war in Vietnam.
We close this issue with Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes’s poem “Helix/Womb/House (for Basra, for Fallujah),” which demands that we bear witness to the violence of armed conflict and occupation through the body and vision of a child. An infant—in utero, stillborn, and born—battered by the international (US and UK) military presence in Iraq and poisoned with the toxic traces this presence and its legacy bequeaths.