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Open Access Military femininities and soldierly identity in the Iraq War autobiographies by female U.S. veterans

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Within the last decade, several studies have analysed the life-writing produced by veterans of the U.S. American war against ‐ and the ensuing occupation of ‐ Iraq (2003-2011). These studies are beginning to offer insightful analyses of several autobiographies written by Iraq War veterans; they focus almost exclusively on male combat veterans, perpetuating a bias that has shaped the genre of autobiographies of war in the United States and the subsequent scholarly analyses of these autobiographies for decades, if not centuries. My paper begins to address this bias by focusing on two autobiographies by female soldiers, namely Jane Blair’s Hesitation kills (2011) and Heidi Squier Kraft’s Rule number two (2007). As the nineteenth-century biographies that Jo Burr Margadant has analysed, these texts can be considered ‘collage[s] of familiar notions merged in unfamiliar ways’ (Margadant, 2000, p. 2), as both of them portray the experiences of female soldiers in a combat zone and thus trouble those assumptions about combat, identity, and gender that continue to structure more traditional American life-writing about war. In my analysis I show how the autobiographical subjects in these texts are constructed through what I call ‘military femininities’. Drawing in part on conceptual and theoretical work done by Judith Butler, Leigh Gilmore, and R.W. Connell, I argue that these military femininities are instrumental in creating female autobiographical subjects that are authorised to talk about war in the cultural context of the contemporary United States, and thus in establishing soldierly identities for American women more generally.
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Keywords: Iraq War; War on Terror; gender identity; women’s autobiography

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Mareike Spychala holds a B.A. in English and American Studies from the University of Salzburg, and an M.A. in English and American Studies from the Universities of Bamberg and the Université Paris Diderot - Paris 7. She is currently working as a research assistant and lecturer at the American Studies section of the University of Bamberg.

Publication date: September 1, 2016

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  • Het Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies is het forum voor de wetenschappelijke problematisering van sekse in relatie tot andere vormen van discriminatie en uitsluiting zoals etniciteit, seksualiteit, klasse of leeftijd. Er worden artikelen in gepubliceerd over gendervraagstukken vanuit alle relevante disciplines die een wetenschappelijke bijdrage leveren aan debatten over gender en intersectionaliteit in Nederland en Vlaanderen. Het tijdschrift is een interdisciplinair medium op het kruispunt van maatschappij-, cultuur-, geestes-, gezondheids- en natuurwetenschappen. Het verschijnt vier keer per jaar en biedt wetenschappelijke artikelen en daarnaast ook interviews, boekrecensies, discussiedossiers en opiniërende artikelen in het Nederlands en Engels. Artikelen worden dubbelblind beoordeeld door externe deskundigen.

    The Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies (Journal of Gender Studies) is a Dutch language forum for the scientific problematisation of gender in relation to ethnicity, sexuality, class, and age. The journal aims to contribute to debates about gender and diversity in the Netherlands and Flanders. The journal is an interdisciplinary medium operating at the intersection of society, culture, the humanities, health and science. The editorial staff is open to articles about gender issues from different disciplines, and also accepts English articles. As well as publishing articles, the journal includes essays, columns (short topical and polemical articles), interviews, reviews, summaries of dissertations and conference reports. Articles are subjected to a double blind peer review process.
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