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Pleasure and Performance in Military Afterlives

Invictus Games

This project considers veteran experiences in the UK and US in the aftermath of the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Building on a growing body of literature that pays attention to war's 'ordinariness' and analyses it from the everyday experiences of those who have been touched by its occurrence, the project goes beyond a focus on injury, violence or grief, giving notice instead to veteran experiences in which joy, satisfaction and wellbeing may (also) be felt. Directing attention away from war's frontline, the project considers instead the multiple points where military lives (and afterlives) are performed and (re)enacted, as well as how non-military bodies are invited to share or mimic these experiences.

Using sites such as the Invictus Games, the Ms Veteran America contest, Veteran's and Armistice Day events, and other veteran-led organisations and projects, the research seeks to uncover a range of veteran experiences, complicating understandings of military afterlives. From the embodied experiences of veterans taking part in athletic or other physical events and their physical sensations of strength, fitness and bodily control, to the affective atmospheres of the sites that are physically and emotionally felt by military and non-military bodies alike, a multitude of ways that war and militarism are experienced will be mapped and a fuller picture of their affective landscapes produced.

The significance of these experiences will be explored through four key questions:

  • How and in what sites do veterans experience joy, satisfaction and wellbeing?
  • What do these experiences tell us about war and militarism that a focus on pain and trauma do not?
  • In the aftermath of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, how do these experiences 'live on' in and on (post-)military bodies and what effects do they have?
  • What can this tell us about how war becomes a part of everyday life?

Funded by a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, the project commenced in September 2016 and will run for three years.

The Principle Investigator for the project is Dr Julia Welland from the PAIS Department, University of Warwick.

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