"We are used up, eaten up by life": Aging Veterans of the Soviet-Afghan War
(Johns Hopkins University)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on the case of four veterans of the Soviet-Afghan war, I show how aging, by making available new ways of speaking about disease, injury and pain, plays an important role in the veterans' movement between "military" and "civilian" life.
Paper long abstract:
In this paper, I attend to the presence of disease and injury in the lives of four friends, Russian veterans of the Soviet-Afghan war. I map out how, over the years, their relationship to disease and injury has changed as they moved between the often-blurred boundaries of "military" and "civilian" life. Aging, understood as a non-linear process that meshes the biological and the moral in complex and paradoxical ways, has become central to my consideration of this question. Describing the case of these four "brothers", I investigate how aging's accelerations, decelerations and interruptions map onto the experiences of a life in common, with kin and friends, and onto the movements between "front" and "home". Precisely, I argue that aging, the expressivity and "mobility" of an aging body, has opened up new ways of speaking about disease, injury and pain that are not available to younger veterans. It is as if a circulating language of pain and a series of diagnoses could attach themselves more easily to aging bodies. Furthermore, I show how, in the contexts of the lives of these veterans, this articulation was made possible not only by the alignment of a particular rhythm of the body and the availability of a standing language of pain, but also by the emergence of specific institutions in Russia in the 1990s (clinics, veterans' organizations, NGOs).
To the "front" and back "home" again: military mobilities and the social transitions they entail