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

Overview

"Making War at Fort Hood is a powerful, beautifully written book that brings to life the permanent vulnerability and bafflement of suffering soldiers and their families. As MacLeish tracks what it means to have a life amid war's threat to it, he listens hard to the stories, detailing the comic and tragic genres people invent to make sense of things as they veer between snapping and being stunned. The emotional life of the soldier is here memorably, richly chronicled."—Lauren Berlant, University of Chicago

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

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Overview

"Making War at Fort Hood is a powerful, beautifully written book that brings to life the permanent vulnerability and bafflement of suffering soldiers and their families. As MacLeish tracks what it means to have a life amid war's threat to it, he listens hard to the stories, detailing the comic and tragic genres people invent to make sense of things as they veer between snapping and being stunned. The emotional life of the soldier is here memorably, richly chronicled."—Lauren Berlant, University of Chicago

"For the residents of Fort Hood, Texas, 'deployment' is in the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, including infidelity, divorce, abuse, and drugs. It's also in the ordinary life of waiting, recovering, dreading. It's in the mile-long row of strip malls, fast-food chains, and auto-parts stores on the main street of Killeen. It's in death by speeding on the widows' highway the day after returning from war. Kenneth MacLeish's Making War at Fort Hood is a profound investigation not only of war in the present moment but of the precariousness of life."—Kathleen C. Stewart, University of Texas, Austin

"This is one of the most valuable books I have read in a long time. Making War at Fort Hood delivers a close, convincing, and moving portrait of soldiers' lives. It demonstrates impressive intellectual depth and at the same time is ethnographically rich. The whole country needs to learn from this book."—Alan Klima, University of California, Davis

"An ethnographic study of the everyday lives of soldiers and their families, Making War at Fort Hood tackles profound questions of trauma and bodily experience, debt, love, accountability, separation and return, in a community constituted by the routine presence of war. I love this book. It is beautifully written, poignant and compelling, illuminating and sensitive. This is an extraordinarily timely and important work."—Mary Steedly, Harvard University

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Twenty-first-century servicemen and women are leading a new kind of soldier’s life—overwhelmingly married, they rotate routinely between the battlefield and a home in the suburbs. Multiple tours are the norm. Compartmentalizing verges from a coping mechanism to a survival tactic. But what kind of impact does this normalization of abnormality have on soldiers, their families, and military base communities? Vanderbilt’s MacLeish offers the beginnings of an explanation in his case study of Fort Hood, Tex., where “hat is ‘normal’ is not necessarily tolerable,” and couples find it “difficult to say who it worse,” soldier or spouse. The author describes the base as a complex network of “thresholds and distinctions,” whose structure holds true on the battlefield, where “the Army owns the ... but the soldier is forced to own its pains.” MacLeish writes eloquently of love as a panacea for soldiers and their families, noting that it is an effective “gesture of sovereignty” in a system of “disciplinary constraint.” But MacLeish advocates for a grander “collective social responsibility for violence” done in society’s name. Though his conclusions have been reached before, this portrait of Army life on American turf is a welcome change of pace from the recent surge of battle-focused narratives. 6 halftones. (Mar.)
ForeWord
The real thrust of [Making War at Fort Hood] is to show the American public—insulated from having to care greatly by an all-volunteer army and battles being fought on credit—that it nonetheless bears responsibility for the violence being done abroad and at home in its name.
San Antonio Express-News
The book illuminates the impact that two wars over a 12-year period can have on deployed soldiers, their families and their community.
Times Higher Education - James T Crouse
In bringing troops from the background to the front where they belong, this book should be required reading for Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and anyone else responsible for sending soldiers to that folly in the desert. They should read it before they go to bed and when they wake up. MacLeish has shown them, and us, what we do to others when we send them to fight our wars.
Florida Courier - Dr. Glenn Altschuler
In Making War at Fort Hood, Kenneth MacLeish . . . draws on interviews with [returning soldiers] and members of their families in an ethnographic exploration of the impact of deployment on their everyday lives. . . . MacLeish documents, often poignantly, the difficulties soldiers have in making sense of their experiences and in moving on.
From the Publisher
Third Place for the 2013 Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing, Society for Humanistic Anthropology and American Anthropological Association

"MacLeish writes eloquently. . . . [T]his portrait of Army life on American turf is a welcome change of pace from the recent surge of battle-focused narratives."—Publishers Weekly

"To its great credit, MacLeish's project refuses to paint soldiers as either noble heroes or unwitting victims, two of the most dominant and therefore the most tired archetypes of our time. In a society that has exoticized and abstracted the military, MacLeish re-humanizes it. He is also remarkably precise in how he describes the institution of the Army: how its various bureaucracies, all geared at least tangentially toward killing people and destroying property, prescribe and encompass so many aspects of a soldier's life, from the most consequential to the seemingly benign, such as haircut styles and family day picnics. MacLeish's book is smart, necessary, and insightful."—Brian Van Reet, Daily Beast

"The real thrust of [Making War at Fort Hood] is to show the American public—insulated from having to care greatly by an all-volunteer army and battles being fought on credit—that it nonetheless bears responsibility for the violence being done abroad and at home in its name."—ForeWord

"The book illuminates the impact that two wars over a 12-year period can have on deployed soldiers, their families and their community."—San Antonio Express-News

"In bringing troops from the background to the front where they belong, this book should be required reading for Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and anyone else responsible for sending soldiers to that folly in the desert. They should read it before they go to bed and when they wake up. MacLeish has shown them, and us, what we do to others when we send them to fight our wars."—James T Crouse, Times Higher Education

"In Making War at Fort Hood, Kenneth MacLeish . . . draws on interviews with [returning soldiers] and members of their families in an ethnographic exploration of the impact of deployment on their everyday lives. . . . MacLeish documents, often poignantly, the difficulties soldiers have in making sense of their experiences and in moving on."—Dr. Glenn Altschuler, Florida Courier

"Drawing on observations and interviews conducted during a year at Fort Hood, this ethnography provides a poignant account of military life, especially the impact of war on U.S. soldiers and their families. . . . This concise, engaging, and well-referenced text is a welcome addition to the field of military ethnography."—Choice

"MacLeish offers us something richer: a sensitively rendered portrait of social actors who both do and do not get to choose their course, who force us to rethink basic notions of agency and autonomy from the vantage point of violence as a way of life."—Marcel La Flamm, Public Books

"Making War at Fort Hood is an ambitious, provocative book. It will be of significant value to historians of contemporary military conflicts, the organizational culture of the U.S. Army, and the lived experience of war. . . . It is an important work that deserves attention."—Jacqueline Whitt, H-Net Reviews
"Making War at Fort Hood is essential reading for those with an interest in modern Army life and for those in leadership positions."—Lieutenant Colonel G. Alan Knight, Journal of Army History

Kirkus Reviews
The chronicle of MacLeish's (Medicine, Health and Society/Vanderbilt Univ.) immersion in the culture of Fort Hood, Texas, to understand daily life on military bases. The author spent a year observing the rhythms of life and death at Fort Hood, a base with about 55,000 individuals, many of whom have returned to the United States from Iraq and Afghanistan. MacLeish expanded his doctoral thesis in this book, so the language is sometimes arcane, meant for a scholarly audience accustomed to authors devoting significant portions of a book explaining the methodology employed. Such clinical research can seem cold when set against an intentional culture of violence, in which the military troops are being trained to kill. MacLeish opens with a traumatized veteran called Dime, who resides near Fort Hood after experiencing the horrors of war in Iraq. Dime is receiving assistance for his various traumas, but MacLeish suggests that escaping the trauma is especially difficult when living near a military base, where war violence is anticipated and institutionalized--it is the norm, routine. The author ends with the mass killing on the base on November 5, 2009, when Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire inside the Fort Hood Soldier Readiness Processing Center. Notwithstanding the Hasan incident, the image of Fort Hood had been suffering because of the base's recent highest-ever rate of suicide. A depressing yet enlightening account that mostly overcomes its academic jargon.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691152745
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 2/24/2013
  • Pages: 280
  • Sales rank: 702,645
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Kenneth T. MacLeish is assistant professor of medicine, health, and society at Vanderbilt University.

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations ix
Prologue: "Don't Fuckin' Leave Any of This Shit Out" 1
Introduction 6
1 A Site of Exception 27
2 Heat, Weight, Metal, Gore, Exposure 50
3 Being Stuck and Other Problems in the Reproduction of Life 93
4 Vicissitudes of Love 134
5 War Economy 179
Postscript: So-called Resiliency 223
Acknowledgments 231
Appendix: Army Rank Structure 235
Notes 239
References 249
Index 261

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