Introduction to the Special Focus Section

Abstract

The three articles presented in this special section of Medical Anthropology Quarterly are devoted to the ways that military servicemembers’ bodies are figured, deployed, symbolized, and represented. These articles illustrate two issues that confront the members of many contemporary militaries exemplified here by examples from the United States and Turkey (Ben Ari 2001; Bickford 2011; Pengelly and Irwin 2010; Weiss 1998). The first is that they are embedded in a set of ethical relations with the state that deploys them to conflicts. Military service confers a level of prestige and status, but it also entangles those who serve in complex social dilemmas. They are refigured as celebrated heroes in their communities but may also, as illustrated in Aciksoz’s and Wool and Messinger’s articles (this issue), find themselves dependent on their families and loved ones, as well as on military and state institutions. Servicemembers are also placed in new and complex relationships with their own bodies, and they come to experience vulnerability, mortality, and morality in novel and distinct ways.