"I am a citizen soldier": Negotiating civilian and military in the post-9/11 National Guard
Vest, Bonnie M.
MetadataShow full item record
This work is the result of 14 months of anthropological ethnographic field research with Army National Guard (ARNG) soldiers, their families, and military service providers in the United States. I develop an ethnography which focuses specifically on the balancing of dual civilian and military obligations in the context of frequent reserve deployments in the post-9/11 period and examine how these dual, and at times competing obligations influence individual identity conceptions and the cultural construction of the citizen-soldier role in the United States. Dual belonging as a citizen-soldier is particularly interesting because of the many opposite premises upon which civilian and military culture in the United States are based and because military participation has traditionally been viewed as an all-encompassing experience. In this context of belonging in contradictory worlds with differential power, I examine the ways in which individuals use a combination of practices to balance their dual belonging, including embodied practice, spatial displacement, and narrativity. I find that the experience of deployment plays a key role and soldiers who have never deployed tend to compartmentalize their civilian and military experiences by using physical markers to signify their transition from one role to the next. In contrast, deployment veterans display an increased internalization of the soldier identity and therefore experience a greater difficulty in reconciling civilian and military cultural modes of being, relying more on narrativity to organize their belonging. This discussion provides an entry point into theoretical discussions surrounding individual agency as it relates to the negotiation of belonging in institutions of power, such as the military. I demonstrate the ways in which National Guard membership both constrains and enables individual agency and argue for a more diversified view of agency as existing on multiple layers from the practical to the managerial to the discursive, each of which can be enabled or curtailed by external conditions.