Accepted paper:

Appropriating Rurality for Military Subjectivities: New Zealand Servicemen in the 1991 Persian Gulf War


Nina Harding (Massey University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will examine how New Zealand military servicemen must appropriate rural character traits in order to successfully narrate soldier subjectivities.

Paper long abstract:

In New Zealand the national subject is a rural subject. A significant facet of the construction of New Zealand nationhood on rural foundations was the opportunity provided by the Boer and World Wars for the previously isolated nation to display its qualities on the international stage; New Zealand was "good" at war, and this was attributed to the rural character of its soldiers. This rural national character, the "Anzac Spirit", is epitomised in farmer and World War Two hero Charles Upham, and has recently been perpetuated through discourses on Victoria Cross recipient Corporeal Willie Apiata. Through an analysis of interviews with 1991 Gulf War veterans, it will be shown that military servicemen now tell war stories that are more closely related to narratives of urban-type careers than to traditional discourses of the farmer temporarily leaving his fields in order to patriotically serve his homeland. Nevertheless, even men who do not have rural subjectivities or any investment in such must take on rural characteristics in order to successfully claim a military identity in New Zealand. This rurality may then be at odds with, or reside unacknowledged in, non-rural career narratives. We can understand this state of affairs through the recent shift from warmongering to peacekeeping in New Zealand international policy.

panel P18
Appropriating rurals