Soldier Blogs

American Military Blogs:
Contextualizing the Narrative and Performative Techniques of Native American War Ceremonies for an Analysis of Community Building and Civil (Re)integration via the New Media

Dr. Frank Usbeck (website)
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Institute of English and American Studies
TU Dresden

Funded by generous support from the German Research Foundation (DFG).

This case study discusses weblogs of American soldiers written from the combat zone. These so-called "milblogs" are a significant new text type in contemporary American culture which is characterized by its self-consciousness and self-confidence both in terms of referentiality and community-building. The project understands milblogs as interactive, performed, and ceremonial narratives and aims at analyzing how the interactive narration of combat stress (trauma) as well as of everyday life in the war zone enables community-building in the blogs. It explores how these communities constitute themselves through a self-reflective examination of their own narrative effort and interaction, how these narratives help negotiate group identities and social values, and how they contribute to the civil (re-)integration of soldiers.

This postdoctoral project employs an approach of cultural comparison as it correlates milblogs with the rituals of North American indigenous warrior cultures. Several Native American cultures have retained or revived a tradition of performative and narrative ceremonies related to war and warriorhood until today. They are an integral part of current cultural practices of Native members of the US armed forces in the current conflicts. Scholarship on warrior traditions in Native American studies has pointed out that these ceremonies, along with the relationship between warriors and their indigenous communities, have positive effects on symptoms of combat-related stress. They suggest that analyses of combat-related stress among non-Native veterans should take into account the cultural importance of ceremonial reintegration, that is, of ritual performance and narrativity. Following this approach, this study explores the specific narrative textuality and cultural work of milblogs, as well as their interrelation of self-consciousness/self-confidence with self-reflexivity, by employing a cultural and medial comparison with indigenous narrative ceremonies.