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Operation ‘Long Distance Parenting’: the moral struggles of being a Danish soldier and father

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This article explores how Danish soldiers and fathers combine their moral responsibilities with international military deployment. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among Danish soldiers and their families, I demonstrate how soldiering and fatherhood exist as conflicting gendered moral discourses in the lives of Danish soldier-fathers. I argue that military deployment becomes a situation of moral conflict where Danish soldier-fathers struggle to balance their moral engagements as both professional soldiers and present and involved fathers. Rather than looking at military deployment as a temporally and spatially bounded experience, I suggest it is more useful to understand deployment as a life circumstance that continuously forces soldier-fathers to make conscious moral decisions. From this perspective, I explore two strategies used by Danish soldier-fathers to maintain their social and moral engagement as both soldiers and fathers. Firstly, I demonstrate how soldier-fathers create alternative narratives of ‘good’ fatherhood by challenging a moral discourse of the physically present father. Secondly, I show how online technologies simultaneously become a strategy for soldier-fathers to ‘be there’ as fathers during deployment as well as a trigger of moral concern when the fathers are unable to provide the support needed on the home front. The aim of the article is thus to demonstrate how Danish soldier-fathers navigate conflicting moral terrains, as well as how they negotiate and challenge existing gendered norms and moralities through their continuous struggles.
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Keywords: Absence; deployment; fatherhood; morality; presence; soldiering

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, KĂžbenhavn, Denmark;

Publication date: October 3, 2018

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