New Book – On Veterans and Post-War Trajectories – “L’adieu aux armes. Parcours d’anciens combattants”, Nathalie Duclos (Ed.)

The book is published by Karthala, 2010  (in French)

Abstracts in English

Table of Contents

 Nathalie Duclos. Introduction

The introduction examines research in the fields of history, political science, sociology and anthropology concerning combat veterans of various armed conflicts, within and between states. Two research methodologies emerge which, though developed independently of each other, reflect a preoccupation with similar questions. The author proposes a third methodology, reformulating these questions in the aim of laying the groundwork for a political sociology of the ex-combatant’s return to civilian life and their postwar trajectories. Critical of the view that the end of a war opens up a radically new era, the author suggests taking a closer look at the legacies of war, its postwar sociological and cognitive continuities and discontinuities, the possible difficulties involved in ex-combatants ridding themselves of a violent “mode”, the effects, from that point of view, of policies aimed at them, and the strategies of individual veterans in face of the deep sociological and political transformations of the postwar period. The career concept proposed by Howard Becker, certainly helps to better understand and deal with ex-combatants’ postwar itineraries.


Anne Le Huérou et Élisabeth Sieca-Kozlowski.  A “Chechen Syndrome”? Russian veterans of the Chechen war: transposing violence into society

This chapter is a study of Russian veterans after the Chechen conflict and the trajectories both of demobilised soldiers and policemen returning to their previous law enforcement functions. The authors explore the hypothesis that the war experience is transposed into episodes of postwar violence. They also bring in related elements, such as pre-war experiences in institutions where brutality is common (army, police) and government policies implicitly or explicitly authorizing violence.

Sümbül Kaya. The Return of Veterans: terrain for a regime of national security?

This article analyses the situation of Turkish soldiers who participated in the Kurdish conflict during their military service. It questions the extent to which the return of ex-combatants has been instrumentalized by the Turkish authorities, in particular through a mythification of past combats and sanctification of martyrs which breeds a need for security in the population and thus facilitates the redeployment of a law-and-order regime in social structures. Indeed, the return of the veterans to civilian life seems to play a role in the security ethos. Furthermore, the spread of this mode of thinking engenders an attitude of “moral armament” towards the Kurdish conflict.

 Sophie Daviaud. The Demobilization Process of Colombian Paramilitary Groups: why it results in a social and political dead end

This article deals with the demobilization process of the Colombian paramilitary groups, begun in 2003 by the government of Alvaro Uribe Velez and ending in early 2006 with the disarmament of more than 31,000 fighters. After describing the short-term effects of the process – a general decrease in the level of violence and a reduction in the number of human rights violations – the author seeks to explain the difficulties which are beginning to appear and which undermine the long-term process. Various hypotheses are considered: the “warrior habitus” of the paramilitaries, which renders them incapable of other than war-like activity and a “brutalization” of Colombian society. The author believes that it is the permanent presence of narco-traffic networks in Colombia which explains the creation of new armed groups and the restructuring of old ones; furthermore, that the failure of the DDR process is evidence of the infiltration of Colombian society and its political system by paramilitaries.

 Camille Boutron. Back to Civilian Life After a War: the blotting out of women’s participation in the Committees for Self Defense in Peru

Between 1980 and 2000, Peru was shaken by violent armed conflict causing the death of more than 69,000 people. In collaboration with the army, civil defence patrols were set up in the peasant communities hardest hit by political violence. Known as Comités de Autodefensa, these organizations armed themselves to protect their communities. Although the majority of their members were men, women made a significant contribution to self-defence activities. Their participation, however, has been obliterated from the memory of the communities. Moreover, incidents of domestic violence against women have increased sharply, a fact interpreted by the author as due to the continuation of a “warrior habitus” in peacetime.


Béatrice Richard. Can a War Veteran Integrate the American Dream?

What is it like for a war veteran to return to a peaceful and prosperous civilian society? This question is particularly relevant in Canada. Far from the massive operational theatres of both world wars, Canadians experienced these events in a schizophrenic mode: some were caught in the turmoil of the front lines, others remained unharmed on a relatively secure home front. The resulting cultural clash between veterans and civilians was inevitable. How did the veterans experience their return? What were the outward signs of their crises? Veterans told us that after signing their discharge they were asked to abandon their warrior habitus on the spot and pursue the American Dream. It was assumed that the emerging welfare state would create a peaceful and well-ordered life for veterans. However, it neglected to take into account the symbolic dimensions of “civilianization”. At best, the community commemorated its heroes’ ultimate sacrifice, but paid little attention to those who had survived, taking it for granted that they were back to “normal”. Thus, because the community offered no “re-aggregating” rituals which might have helped veterans evacuate the hubris imbued in them by the nation at war, returning soldiers were left to find their own way of repressing their “dark side” and coming to terms with the loss of their brothers in arms. Some managed better than others. But does one ever come back from war? 

Fabien Théofilakis. Veterans, French Authorities and Public Opinion Towards German Prisoners of War (1944-1949)

This paper offers an analysis of the “cultural demobilization” of French veterans. The complex relationship between French veterans and German prisoners of war (POWs) and with French society as a whole reflects the difficult process of reintegrating veterans that began in 1945 and lasted until the departure of the last POW in 1949. The article discusses the impact on this process of how the enemy was viewed, the role of political structures, and the importance of the international context – at three points in time. From 1944 until October 1945, a rationale of surveillance towards an enemy universally despised justified the participation of veterans – in recognition of their sacrifice – in the administration of POWs. As time went on however and the war receded into the past, POWs began to take on a more human and positive image as workers for France, which frustrated veterans’ attempts to remain the focal point of the country’s reconstruction. 1947 was a turning point in the relationship of French society with both POWs and veterans. Official projects aimed at the integration of the soon-to-be-liberated POWs, now accepted by public opinion, aroused conflicting reactions on the part of veterans and foreshadowed their marginalization by French society in the 1950s. 

Samuel Tanner. “Recycled” Militiamen: the reconversion experience of four former members of Serbian armed bands

How do former militiamen who have participated in mass violence “recycle” once the war is over? Do they reintegrate into the postwar “normalized” day-to-day framework of social, political and community relations? Or does the violence experienced during the war transfer into the postwar context? And if so, can we speak of a violent habitus? This chapter, an ethnographic study of the postwar reconversion of four former Serbian militiamen who took part in mass violence in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, underlines the need to view such conversion experiences from a dual angle: collective and individual. From the collective point of view, we find a reconfiguration of the community’s social economy with a tendency towards a new order giving these former members of armed bands the status of a local elite. Individually, the vestiges of war are reflected in the difficulty these men have making sense of their personal investment in an unjustifiable past, in addition to which some also suffer from the continued presence of these war experiences within. This becomes apparent in their ambivalent relation to violence.

Sandrine Perrot. Museveni’s Best Enemies: the reintegration of former LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) combatants in northern Uganda – a political tool and a dilemma

The return to northern Uganda after 2003 of adults and commanders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in a no peace no war context has posed legal, political and security challenges for the Ugandan government. This article shows that by encouraging and politically exploiting the successful reintegration of a few high-ranking ex-commanders, the Ugandan government has been trying to win over – or at least control – this stronghold of political and military opposition. However, by perpetuating war hierarchies, chains of command and mobilization networks, the political use of LRA chiefs by the government is simply putting off the “civilianization” of former combatants and the pacification of the political arena, in other words, the demilitarization of political relations between northern Uganda and the central government.


Christophe Roux. From the Great War to Democracy: ex-combatants and the Sardinian autonomist movement

This chapter, a study of Sardinian veterans in the aftermath of the First World War, describes a mobilization by ex-combatants that led neither to totalitarianism nor authoritarianism, but on the contrary to the beginnings of a democratic construction. The article describes the situation in the region after the war, how veterans first organized in an association and how the association developed into an autonomous political party with universal male suffrage before the rise of fascism in Italy.

Aude Merlin. Postwar Years in Chechnya: sabotage of the Chechen state-in-construction by spoilers

This article deals with the way in which the period between the two Chechen wars (1996-1999) was sabotaged by spoilers. Maskhadov, who was head of the Chechen army in Ichkeria – though elected President of Chechnya in 1997– was rapidly weakened by other Chechen ex-combatants, grouped mainly around the Islamists. Taking into account Moscow’s influence on the young independent state of Chechnya and its possible collusion with spoilers inside the country, this article attempts to analyse how the non re-integration of ex-combatants into the postwar social and political framework fostered the spread of violence and undermined the authority of the newly elected president. All this in a context of quasi-total destruction and the absence of a political tradition of the state in Chechnya, along with the growing power of the Islamists. 

 Richard Banégas. A generation of warriors? Violence and the political identity of young militiamen in Côte d’Ivoire

Since the outbreak of war in 2002, militia organizations have flourished in the southern regions of the country. This chapter analyses the role of these militia since the official end of the war and examines their social and political influence. Studies of rural militia in the west of the country and in Abidjan show that since the official end of the conflict young recruits have gained considerable power on the local and national levels, thus disrupting intergenerational relations – though the article insists that the phenomenon is variable and contingent on groups and regions. Although some former fighters have become exemplary figures of social success, others feel the process of peace has left them behind. The article discusses the brutalization of Côte d’Ivoire society and the subjectification of youth by violence. It foresees the possible spread of a “war ethos”, on the hypothesis that it is most likely linked to an (im)moral ghetto economy dominated by the ambiguous figure of the urban “warrior”.

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