Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Minnie Bruce Pratt
Arts and Science
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Anthropology | Other Anthropology | Social and Cultural Anthropology
This study looks at the ways that sexual and gender identities are constructed through the translation of military experience into the veteran culture of a VA hospital, taking into account the influences of US nationalism in both military and civilian culture. Through life-history interviews, formal vocabulary association exercises, and informal participant observation carried out over the course of three months in 2006, questions about how the VA culture encourages or discourages certain displays of gender and sexual identity through its policies as well as its unofficial customs and traditions are identified and explored. The emergence of a new, unofficial “uniform” for veterans at the VA hospital, the reinforcement of cultural boundaries against outsiders, the institutional structuring of the hospital, and the common use of language that reaffirms minority statuses and builds brotherhood all function to privilege nationalist ideologies, with implications for the gender and sexual identities of veterans and all civilians. These features persist from the culture of active duty military servicemembers into the culture of veterans, in spite of changes in law that have affected military policies regarding the integration of gays and lesbians. In order to advance from policy changes to actual cultural change, new tools should be borrowed from other activist movements, like Critical Race Theory, a method of legal analysis that can expose interest convergence and essentialism of identities as they occur in developments in the U.S. legal system. If these tools are utilized in combination with anthropological analysis of culture, then the discussions and actions of scholars and activists in queer movements in the U.S. can be enhanced, initiating a shift from demanding rights legally or culturally denied to certain identities to broader discussions of social and cultural responsibilities.
Gwin, Elizabeth R., "Nationalism, Law, Gender and Sexuality: An Anthropological Study of U.S. Military Culture Among Veterans" (2006). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 651.
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