WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT WAR: An ethnographic study of storytelling and the work of words Restricted; Files Only

Matthew Lewis (Summer 2018)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/n009w235w?locale=en
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Abstract

It is assumed that war is traumatizing.  However, not all soldiers assess their deployment as traumatic.  Drawing on life-narrative interviews, extensive participant observation, and literary sources describing the experience of war, this qualitative ethnography focuses on the experiences of high-functioning male veterans of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  How do they tell the story of what it means to go to war?  Their personal narratives are a combination of subjective experience and the cultural conventions that help provide frameworks for interpretation.  Therefore, this study also explores how cultural meta-narratives facilitate and/or negatively impact the ability of those working to make meaning of their war experience.

Table of Contents

     

 

 

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION........... 1

Memory and trauma / Narrative, storytelling and trauma... 3

The Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the specificity of our recent history... 6

Chapter outline... 7

CHAPTER 1........... 8

Methods....... 8

Interviews... 9

Participant observation... 16

Including publicly available war stories... 20

Including the personal ‘I’... 22

An interdisciplinary approach... 24

Concluding thoughts... 25

CHAPTER 2........... 27

Toward a Working Theory of Narrative....... 27

Psychology and life stories... 30

Stories are relational constructions... 35

The complexity of language... 43

The role of temporality... 51

Concluding thoughts... 58

CHAPTER 3........... 62

Toward a Working Theory of Trauma....... 62

Theories of trauma and war... 67

Between soldiers and society. Between veterans and civilians.... 75

Post Traumatic Stress and moral injury: categories and categorizations... 83

Concluding thoughts... 91

CHAPTER 4........... 96

War Stories....... 96

War is boring, fun, funny, hot, and full of sand... 98

War is fear.  War is death… But it could have been worse.... 101

War is meaningful. War is Brotherhood. War is thrilling. War is love… But only when the mission makes sense.... 106

What is a true war story, who is authorized to tell it, and who can understand?... 112

Concluding thoughts... 117

CHAPTER 5........... 119

The Return....... 119

The civil-military divide... 121

Thank you for your service... 128

The ‘War Ego’ and ‘The Peace Ego’... 132

Concluding thoughts... 136

CODA........... 139

Summer 2015... 139

Spring 2018... 141

Concluding thoughts... 143

Works Cited: Printed Sources........... 146

Works Cited: Non-Printed Sources........... 152

 

 

List of Tables and Figures

Table 1 – List of Interviews........... 10

Table 2 - List of Formal Settings for Participant Observation........... 18

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