Death Does Not Become Her: An Examination of the Public Construction of Female American Soldiers as Liminal Figures

Citation:

Millar, Katharine M. 2015. "Death Does Not Become Her: An Examination of the Public Construction of Female American Soldiers as Liminal Figure." Review of International Studies 41 (04): 757-79. doi: 10.1017/s0260210514000424.

Author: Katharine M. Millar

Abstract:

Since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, over 150 female American military personnel have been killed, over 70 following hostile fire. Given Western society’s long-standing practice of reserving the conduct of collective violence to men, these very public deaths are difficult to encompass within the normative and ideological structures of the contemporary American political system. This study examines the ways in which the public duty to commemorate the heroism of soldiers – and the private desire to accurately remember daughters and wives – poses a significant challenge to coherent discursive representation. In doing so, the study employs hermeneutical interpretation to analyse public representations of female soldiers and their relation to death in US popular culture. These representations are examined via Judith Butler’s concept of grievability – the possibility of receiving recognition as a worthy life within the existing social imaginary. It is argued that female soldiers are grievable as both ‘good soldiers’ and ‘good women’, but not as ‘good female soldiers’. The unified subject position of ‘good female soldier’ is liminal, and thus rendered socially and politically unintelligible. The article concludes with an analysis of the implications of this liminality for collective mourning and the possibility of closure after trauma.

 

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Masculinity/ies, Gender Roles, Femininity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Militarism Regions: MENA, Americas, North America, Asia, Middle East, South Asia Countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, United States of America

Year: 2015

© 2017 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.