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Making War at Fort Hood

Making War at Fort Hood: Life and Uncertainty in a Military Community

Kenneth T. MacLeish
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Making War at Fort Hood
    Book Description:

    Making War at Fort Hoodoffers an illuminating look at war through the daily lives of the people whose job it is to produce it. Kenneth MacLeish conducted a year of intensive fieldwork among soldiers and their families at and around the US Army's Fort Hood in central Texas. He shows how war's reach extends far beyond the battlefield into military communities where violence is as routine, boring, and normal as it is shocking and traumatic.

    Fort Hood is one of the largest military installations in the world, and many of the 55,000 personnel based there have served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. MacLeish provides intimate portraits of Fort Hood's soldiers and those closest to them, drawing on numerous in-depth interviews and diverse ethnographic material. He explores the exceptional position that soldiers occupy in relation to violence--not only trained to fight and kill, but placed deliberately in harm's way and offered up to die. The death and destruction of war happen to soldiers on purpose. MacLeish interweaves gripping narrative with critical theory and anthropological analysis to vividly describe this unique condition of vulnerability. Along the way, he sheds new light on the dynamics of military family life, stereotypes of veterans, what it means for civilians to say "thank you" to soldiers, and other questions about the sometimes ordinary, sometimes agonizing labor of making war.

    Making War at Fort Hoodis the first ethnography to examine the everyday lives of the soldiers, families, and communities who personally bear the burden of America's most recent wars.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4629-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, Psychology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. Prologue: “Don’t Fuckin’ Leave Any of This Shit Out”
    (pp. 1-5)

    Dime is in his mid-thirties, white, tall, and broad shouldered. In conversation he engages people with an intensity that is alternately charming and unsettling, veering back and forth between enthusiasm and vehemence. When he talks he calls you “brother,” and his chalky blue eyes lock straight on to you. He had enlisted in the Army late, when his work as a freelance carpenter and musician wasn’t enough to support his kids and provide them with health insurance. At age thirty-five, Dime was an E-4 only four years into his service.¹

    When we first met, he immediately began to recount stories...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. 6-26)

    When it comes to war and the people touched by it, there are always stories involved, myths to be forged, biographies to be exalted, and absences to be sutured over. These are stories that leave some killing and dying overstuffed with meaning, and neglect other killers and other dead altogether. In these stories, war’s productive and destructive violence—the empowerment, construction, and shaping of the soldier, his wearing down, injury, and death, and the terrorizing, maiming, and extermination of civilians—is the exception rather than the rule. All the harm that comes with war is cast as tragedy or side...

  6. 1 A Site of Exception
    (pp. 27-49)

    To describe the official form and order of Army life is not actually to portray that life. But it would also be wrong to think that the regulations, orders, constraints, and earnest and straightlaced corporate culture are simply a restrictive veneer beneath which “real” life transpires. Listening to the people who live in and with the military, one could be forgiven for wondering whether the institution is the basis for normalcy or an egregious intrusion on it. So much of what I talked to people about were things that lay in the past or future, things that happened at a...

  7. 2 Heat, Weight, Metal, Gore, Exposure
    (pp. 50-92)

    When I went to meet Chad for our interview, he was waiting for me on the porch, antsy because I was ten minutes late. “rab you a hat,” he told me. “We’re going fishing.“Chad is short and compact. His buzz cut and bristle of regulation moustache are the same length and the same shade of light brown. He had a lot on his mind. He was a “geographic bachelor”: his wife lived several states away, kept there while he was in Texas by a bitter custody battle with her exhusband. She was having medical problems, and was jealously inquisitive about...

  8. 3 Being Stuck and Other Problems in the Reproduction of Life
    (pp. 93-133)

    As crazy as things were in Iraq, as soldiers would often remark, they were simpler there than they were back home in Texas. And that old saw about war being composed of long stretches of boredom punctuated by brief episodes of terror applied as much to the home front as to the combat zone.

    The terrifying vulnerability of the human body extends beyond the individual soldier and the foreign battlefield. It is not just the deployed soldier who endures the vagaries of exception as agent, instrument, and object of state violence. This precariousness also afflicts the soldier who has returned...

  9. 4 Vicissitudes of Love
    (pp. 134-178)

    The departure and return events for deploying soldiers are called manifests. They are a bureaucratic roll call combined with either a prolonged, devastating farewell or a quick, joyful reunion. They have a sort of folk-mythical significance in military communities as scenes of eventfulness and intensity that define the collective experience of absence, anxiety, separation, strained attachment, the stone-faced inhumanity of the war apparatus, and the extravagantly painful human frailty of the people caught up in it. People wanted to know if I had gone to one; they wanted to make sure that I did go.

    A lot of the time...

  10. 5 War Economy
    (pp. 179-222)

    Clausewitz (1982, 119) is well known—and frequently misquoted—for his definition of war as a simple means to an end, merely “a mere continuation of policy by other means.” Fighting solves practical and ideological disagreements and rivalries of control. But the complementary pole of Clausewitz’s dialectical definition is the notion of war as “nothing but a duel on a larger scale.” Ultimately, war is not reducible to either mere brute force or purely rational policy (Bassford 1994). Elaine Scarry (1987, 12), following from Clausewitz, describes war as fundamentally a contest of injuring, in which the carnage of the interior...

  11. Postscript: So-called Resiliency
    (pp. 223-230)

    At about 1:30 in the afternoon on Thursday, November 5, 2009, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, walked into the Soldier Readiness Processing Center at the west end of Fort Hood, drew a 5.7-millimeter FN Five-Seven handgun purchased from Guns Galore on Hood Street in Killeen, and began shooting. He fired more than a hundred rounds in the space of ten minutes, killing thirteen people and injuring twenty-nine, before being incapacitated by shots fired by two police officers. Paralyzed from the chest down, Hasan was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. As of this writing, he...

  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 231-234)
  13. Appendix: Army Rank Structure
    (pp. 235-238)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 239-248)
  15. References
    (pp. 249-260)
  16. Index
    (pp. 261-266)