Accepted paper:

On the Front Lines of Manifest Destiny; the Nuclear Family and the Militarisation of the American Mind.


Poppy Kohner (University of Glasgow)

Paper short abstract:

The traditional nuclear family is central to the idea of the American Dream. This paper explores how the impossible task of living up to patriotic, white, heterosexual family identities in the United States can create vulnerabilities which can be exploited by militarism. It addresses how militarism operates on the fear, hope and failure of our most intimate relationships as we develop into adults.

Paper long abstract:

Militarism is Manifest Destiny in motion. Both abroad and at 'home', American expansionism is fueled by the belief in American exceptionalism. At the core of the American dream are notions of patriotic, white, heterosexual family values, which fits nicely into the logic of capitalism. This paper explores how in the gap between the nuclear family ideal and peoples' lived reality, dwells a vulnerability which is exploited by military recruitment and other forms of domination, which operate in the shroud of material and emotional empowerment. The nuclear family ideal and militarism have a mutually exploitative relationship, in that the military encourages soldiers to marry and have children (in same sex marriages), and the violence inherent in the traditional family structure makes it a breeding ground for future soldiers. This paper describes the nuclear family ideal and the notion of the American soldier as enablers of the American Dream, and are both seen to be forms of fantasy which serve political agendas of the rich, while simultaneously continuing spiraling oppressions of individual citizens and communities.

panel G25
Missing out on manifest destiny: anthropology on the periphery of the American dream