ASA2016: Footprints and futures: the time of anthropology

(P16)
Veterans of liberation wars and counter-insurgencies: negotiating loss, integration, memory and trauma
Location Science Site/Engineering E005
Date and Start Time 06 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 1

Convenors

  • Alice Wilson (Durham University) email
  • Ana Margarida Sousa Santos (Durham University) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

Through an analysis of how veterans of liberation wars - both liberation movements and counter-insurgency veterans - face legacies and memories of liberation wars, this panel illuminates shared experiences of war, trauma, loss and memorialization on both sides of the colonial encounter.

Long Abstract

The 1960s and 1970s saw wars pitting liberation movements against local and foreign state powers in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Today, these veterans, and those who have come of age in the wake of these wars, face challenges: coping with trauma, achieving political and economic integration, seeking recognition from peers and state authorities, and negotiating memory and commemoration. Taking up historically and geographically diverse cases from post-colonial countries and former colonial powers, this panel examines the lives of liberation and counter-insurgency veterans. It pays attention to questions of political, economic, physical and social welfare - and malaise. By studying veterans who found themselves on both sides of liberation wars, the panel probes the parallels and distinctions between veterans in different settings. It investigates the potential for veteran networks to bring about forms of inclusion and exclusion, to formulate political demands, and to shift understandings of the wars and their consequences.

We seek papers that address the multiple, historically contextualized experiences of war and its consequences for veterans and their families.

Questions to be addressed may include:

In what ways are war memories integrated, silenced or commemorated in post-war contexts?

How do official and unofficial legacies of liberation wars co-exist?

What narratives of well-being have been developed?

How do different understandings of past conflict impact on current debates around colonial wars and liberation movements?

Through a comparative approach we aim to illuminate shared experiences of war, trauma, loss and memorialization in diverse contexts.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Recasting military citizenship and state responsibly: nuclear test veterans and claims for healthcare in New Zealand

Author: Catherine Trundle (Victoria University of Wellignton )  email

Short Abstract

This paper develops the notion of military citizenship to explore veterans’ healthcare claims. Focusing on New Zealand nuclear veterans I show how veterans resist and reject processes of governmental power, while also demanding increased modes of care and relationality with the State.

Long Abstract

During the Cold War an escalating race to develop nuclear weapons became the means by which Britain, the USSR and the USA jostled for global geopolitical supremacy. In the 1950s Britain sent thousands of servicemen to participate in secret H-bomb tests in the Pacific, and called upon its southern colonies to contribute men and expertise. Focusing on New Zealand naval men sent to participate in the British tests, this paper examines the veterans' ongoing practices of memorialisation and memory work, as well as their political and legal engagements with the state over the last 60 years, as they have struggled to gain recognition for illnesses they attribute to radiation exposure. This paper explores how nuclear test veterans wrestled with reframing personal memories of military service in relation to an increasingly post-colonial nationalism in New Zealand, as well as am emergent anti-nuclear, anti-militarism peace movement. For many men such a shift has been an uneasy one, at odds with ideals to 'serve Queen and Country', and a staunch loyalty toward the military and its hierarchies. In reworking the narratives and histories of nuclear testing service, these veterans have also helped to recast the State's responsible for their health and wellbeing in novel ways that include wider psycho-social, relational and environmental factors. This paper develops the notion of military citizenship to account for the ways in which veterans resist and reject processes of governmental power, while simultaneously demanding increased modes of care, responsibility and relationality with the State.

Villains, victims or heroes: negotiating loss and memory among Portuguese combatants of the colonial wars

Author: Ana Margarida Sousa Santos (Durham University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the ways in which Portuguese ex-combatants create, position and represent themselves and consider the silence and invisibility that followed the end of the colonial wars.

Long Abstract

Portugal's late colonial wars have been silenced in national public memory until recently, but in individual memory they remain a formative experience in the country's modern history. Between 1961 and 1974 Portugal was engaged in three theatres of war in Lusophone Africa: Angola, Guinea Bissau, and Mozambique. Nearly one million Portuguese young men were mobilized to fight a war they did not understand and/or agree with. Upon returning home, especially in the aftermath of the 1974 revolution and the rapid political changes taking place in Portugal, the experiences of these young men and their families were silenced or left unacknowledged.

Drawing on ethnographic work with Portuguese ex-combatants I will explore the ways in which they try to create, position and represent themselves in the Portuguese public realm. I will further highlight the temporality of silence, secrecy, visibility and openness and the ways in which this maps onto to Portuguese contemporary history.

Veterans as kin: the social afterlife of a defeated liberation movement in Dhofar, southern Oman

Author: Alice Wilson (Durham University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines how veterans of the defeated liberation movement formerly active in Dhofar, southern Oman, use kinship – births, marriages and deaths – as a realm through which they may reproduce themselves as a social (if not political) group.

Long Abstract

Veterans of nation-forming wars are often assigned specific positions in public discourse: from national heroes (in the case of those associated with winning sides), to public and philanthropical demilitarization programs, to a conspicuous absence in the public domain (in the case of those associated with losing sides). Such public presences (or absences) may nevertheless run in parallel to intimate and private spheres of legacies of such wars. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with families connected to the defeated liberation movement formerly active in Dhofar, southern Oman, this paper examines how despite official silence about the war, veterans have used the realm of kinship - births, marriages and deaths - as a realm through which they may reproduce themselves as a social (if not political) group. In the light of such an intimate legacy of a liberation war, the question of when and how a revolutionary movement is over emerges as highly ambiguous.

Veterans and the transition from military to civilian life in Sri Lanka

Author: Dhana Hughes (Durham University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper considers how Sri Lankan veterans give meaning to, and reflect on their experiences of the transition from military to civilian life in the aftermath of the gruelling war between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers.

Long Abstract

The 30 year long conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended violently in 2009. This was an exceptionally bitter conflict, which drew many young men into a rapidly burgeoning state military force, where soldiers faced extraordinarily long deployments on the frontline (often ranging from 10-15 years). However, little is known about how Sri Lankan veterans go about recreating civilian life in the aftermath of war and military service. Based on fieldwork conducted with Sri Lankan veterans, this paper will consider how they give meaning to, and experience their transition from military to civilian life. In doing so, it will consider the complex interactions between military enculturation, combat experience, and civilian sociality.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.