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The plural of soldier is not troops: the politics of groups in legitimating militaristic violence

Millar, Katharine (2019) The plural of soldier is not troops: the politics of groups in legitimating militaristic violence. Security Dialogue, 50 (3). pp. 201-219. ISSN 0967-0106

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0967010619836337


This article identifies ‘the troops’ as a new, radically under-examined figure in the Western canon of war. Utilising discourse analysis of an original corpus of US ‘support the troops’ material from 2001 to 2010, the article argues that ‘the troops’ cannot be read as a simple aggregation of the figurative soldier or literal military personnel. Instead, ‘groupness of the troops’ shifts the politics of the legitimation of violence – and the possibility of meaningful dissent – in two distinct ways. Firstly, ‘the troops’ are figured, counterintuitively, as passive, dependent and at risk of suffering harm. This enables constructions of militaristic, heroic violence to coexist with empirical experiences of vulnerability without ideological contradiction. Secondly, though many accounts of militarism rely upon citizens’ aspirational identification with the ostensibly-universal soldier, the ‘groupness’ of the troops enables them to incorporate, rather than elide, substantive differences (e.g. race, gender or sexual orientation) through an all-encompassing relationship of ‘support’. Consequently, ‘the troops’ may be a more effective avatar of militarism than ‘the soldier’ – and far more important to the legitimation, depoliticization and even perpetuation of conflict than previously realized. What would the politics of military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq have looked like absent the ‘escape valve’ of the figurative troops?

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2019 The Author
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2019 14:55
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 02:38

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