Whiteness in the glare of war: soldiers, migrants and citizenship

Ware, Vron (2010) Whiteness in the glare of war: soldiers, migrants and citizenship. Ethnicities, 10(3), pp. 313-330. ISSN (print) 1468-7968


The figure of the soldier-migrant demonstrates why it is important to bring the question of military service into contemporary sociological debates about citizenship, belonging and racism. The essay draws on an understanding of whiteness as a fundamental component of historical and gendered notions of citizenship underpinning the 'hypnotic ideals' of national identity. Because of academic specialism and disciplinary boundaries, however, the intersections between civil and military spheres are often neglected as a locus for exploring racialised terms of belonging and exclusion, particularly in times of war. The essay discusses key questions raised by the campaign for Gurkha settlement rights and the employment of thousands of personnel from Commonwealth countries in the British Army, bringing the notion of whiteness as 'fitness for citizenship' into dialogue with recent work on the soldier-citizen developed in Canada and the USA. Recent BNP propaganda demonstrates the perils of leaving the link between military service and the indigenous 'deserving' Brit undisturbed, and the concept of postcolonial melancholia remains a vital way to approach the mobilisation of war memories as a way of defining the terms of UK citizenship today.

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