IED explosions recorded by infantrymen with their helmet cameras: studying the soldier's intimate relation to the counterinsurgency battlefield
Noemie Oxley (American University of Paris)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores, from the study of a soldier's amateur video of an IED explosion followed by an ambush, the nature of the guerrilla battlefield for the soldier, and the ways in which the "low-intensity" chaos imposed by enemy forces impact him mentally and physically.
Paper long abstract:
This paper is based on a study of vernacular productions shot by American soldiers deployed in Iraq and posted on YouTube. It discusses the ways in which these individual videos respond to the sanitized, spectacular and bloodless visual coverage of Shock and Awe provided by the U.S. military-entertainment complex. I focus on soldiers' direct accounts of roadside bombs and ambushes on the counterinsurgency battlefield, through the study of a particular video filmed by an infantryman with his helmet camera and posted on his YouTube channel in 2009. Through this study, I investigate the "combat patterns" and "tactics of the body" (Mauss, 1974; Devictor, 2004) developed by soldiers as they face insurgents' operations. Despite their training - including virtual simulators - encouraging them to recognize manifestations of danger and to anticipate threats, the videos convey mainly the soldiers' vulnerability in the face of insurgents' random and lethal attacks, while exposing the intimate impact of such events on their bodies. This paper uses this analysis to develop on the methodological framework adapted to these productions. Relying on the iconological method (Warburg, 1912; Rampley, 2001; Mitchell, 2005; Ginzburg, 2010), it places the soldier's video in dialogue with other amateur productions, TV shows, and First Person Shooter video games sequences focusing on similar events. I ultimately investigate the nature of the guerrilla battlefield for the soldier by replacing the subjects filming at the heart of a battlefield marked by opacity and invisibility, against the dehumanized visual accounts provided by official war communication.
Negotiating imaginaries: explorations of vernacular audiovisual production