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Breaking bad? Down and Dirty with Military Anthropology

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This article revisits the debate around the frequent problematisation of
anthropological research on ‘our troops’ within the wider anthropology community. Engaging my research on Danish expeditionary forces and my fellow
anthropologists’ disheartening responses to that research, this study examines
controversies over military anthropology as a fundamental question of the apparent tension between empathy and critique. Drawing upon my uneasy experiences of ‘breaking bad’, in terms of becoming an ‘embedded anthropologist’ in a Danish combat unit, I argue that one answer as to why military anthropology tends to be frowned upon is to be found in failures to empathise as well as in different (mis)conceptions of empathy and critique. I show that ‘our troops’ and ‘their anthropologist’ are subjected to processes of othering at the limits of empathy, and I reflect on the trouble with empathy as a research tool and its consequences for a twenty-first-century military anthropology.
Antal sider18
StatusUdgivet - 17 dec. 2019


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