Body count: the politics of representing the gendered body in combat in Australia and the United States

Sara Buttsworth

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

This thesis is an exploration of the construction of the gendered body in combat in the late twentieth century, in Australia and the United States of America. While it is not a military history, aspects of military history, and representations of war and warriors are used as the vehicle for the analysis of the politics of representing gender. The mythic, the material and the media(ted) body of the gendered warrior are examined in the realms of ‘real’ military histories and news coverage, and in the ‘speculative’ arena of popular culture. Through this examination, the continuities and ruptures inherent in the gendered narratives of war and warriors are made apparent, and the operation of the politics of representing gender in the public arena is exposed. I have utilised a number of different approaches from different disciplines in the construction of this thesis: feminist and non-feminist responses to women in the military; aspects of military histories and mythologies of war specific to Australia and the United States; theories on the construction of masculinities and femininities; approaches to gender identity in popular news media, film and television. Through these approaches I have sought to bring together the history of women in the military institutions of Australia and the United States, and examine the nexus between the expansion of women’s military roles and the emergence of the female warrior hero in popular culture. I have, as a result, analysed the constructions of masculinity and femininity that inform the ongoing association of the military with ‘quintessential masculinity’, and deconstructed the real and the mythic corporeal capacities of the gendered body so important to warrior identity. Regardless, or perhaps because of, the importance of gender politics played out in and through the representations of soldier identity, all their bodies must be considered speculative.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2003

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