Date of Award

12-1-2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

McClurg, Scott

Abstract

This case study of members of Iraq Veterans Against the War explores how identity, institutional context and affiliation, emotions, and the notion of healing come together in the experience of activism. Using an interpretive approach, I employ in-depth interviews and observation derived primarily from one local chapter, and visual and textual analysis of newspaper articles, organization documents, and video footage of IVAW actions including Operation First Casualty and the 2012 Medal Return, to better understand the ways in which identification with the institution these activists simultaneously attempt to undermine, the military, shapes their identity and subsequent activism in terms of the actions, strategies and tactics they engage in. I also explore the ways in which their experiences in war and the military have shaped their activism in terms of emotions and the notion of healing. This study finds that identifying as anti-war veterans and deploying that identity in activism enables an insider/outsider status that informs their critique and establishes legitimacy and political standing, which is evident in their public activism. I also find that within this context an emotion culture is created that enables the possibility for healing, catharsis, and the development of a politicized understanding of the mental and physical consequences of war that is intended to empower and mobilize veterans into anti-war activism.

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