Accepted paper:

Outside at the door: the civil-military crisis of the Bundeswehr mission in Afghanistan and its reputation in the old and new media


Dinah Schardt (Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz)

Paper short abstract:

Based on a discourse about civil-military incompatibilities since Germany’s involvement in missions out of area, the paper focuses on media narratives (literature, movies, SNS) about soldiers' experiences in Afghanistan as an attempt to take action against a "friendly indifference" in public.

Paper long abstract:

The presentation illustrates preliminary results of a qualitative analysis based on Grounded Theory which focuses on civil crises and crises of the civil in terms of the ISAF mission in Afghanistan and its reputation in the mass media. Actual starting point is an ongoing discourse about a "friendly indifference" in German society towards the German Bundeswehr and its missions. This rather intrinsic aspect for the Bundeswehr and respective members of defence policy is barely noticed in the civil public itself. The contradiction between the soldiers' self-perception as a "citizen in uniform" and the external one by the public as a "job like any else" refers to an ethical and scientific discourse about the increase of a so-called "civil-military incompatibility" since the beginning of Germany's involvement in global military missions out of area since the 1990s. Therefore, the claim of a lack of prestige in the civil public shows itself in soldiers' critics of the press and in ambitious advances to arouse attention to the incidents and problems in Afghanistan. A growing amount of autobiographical narratives by soldiers and their relatives in all kinds of mass media is eager to show an alternative view of the war and how it affects the personal life of soldiers. The presentation compares literature, TV movies and new forms of expression in the social media regarding their topics, semantics and their impact as an attempt from bottom up to interest an alternative and dispersed civil public through (classic) forms of entertainment and new digital communication.

panel P024
Soldier, security, society: ethnographies of civil-military entanglements