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'It's a Man's Life!': soldiers, masculinity and the countryside

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This article explores the relationships between soldiers, masculinity and the countryside. It draws on a variety of published materials ranging from army recruitment literature to military autobiography. It is located primarily in conceptual frameworks suggested by feminist and rural studies literatures. Following a brief discussion of the historical contribution of the military to ideas of rurality, the relationships between soldiers, masculinity and the countryside are explored. First, the ways in which the army constructs a particular view of the countryside are discussed. This view accords the army rights of control over space, dictates a particular way of seeing rural space, and develops a quasi-environmentalist interpretation of the impact of army activity on the landscape. Second, it is suggested that this conceptualisation of the countryside contributes specifically to the construction of particular (hegemonic) notions of masculinity. The ideas of adventure and danger are particularly important in this respect. Third, the role of the body of the soldier in this process is examined. The construction of a specific gendered identity through a process of transformation from civilian to soldier is discussed. The article concludes by suggesting how the body of the soldier is used to signify particular senses of place.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1998-11-01

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