Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Constituting Moral Orders A Situational Analysis of US Military Veterans' Public Testimony Against War
by Spring, Kimberly A., Ph.D., New School University, 2012, 350; 3511253
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores the social and moral significance of the testimonies against war that were presented by US military veterans during Winter Soldier Iraq and Afghanistan (WSIA) in 2008. I examine how the frame and structure provided by the event organizers position the veteran testifiers as victimized perpetrators who speak as moral witnesses to systemic discrimination within the military and atrocities in war. I undertake a multi-level situational analysis to examine the interrelation of macrostructures, discursive frames, spatial and temporal relations, and linguistic and nonlinguistic expressions. Through the findings, I identify how the asymmetrical and performative aspects of the event hindered opportunities for alternative interpretations and open deliberation and positioned the participants as an audience that served as witnesses to the testimonies.

Using an approach that draws inspiration from American pragmatism, the dissertation focuses on the experience of morality, as opposed to its discursive legitimation. I demonstrate how a pragmatic approach to the study of morality allows for recognition of the ways in which the enactment of moral valuations are partial, implied, and situationally dependent, as well as how actors tend to be more concerned with the relation of the valuation to the situation than its justification. I compare the findings from the situational analysis of WSIA with a series of semi-structure interviews with a group of veterans who testified at WSIA to show how the methodological approach to the study of morality influences the possibilities for moral meaning. More specifically, the positioning of the veterans as selves during the interviews is contrasted with their constitution as witnesses during WSIA. Consequently, moral valuations during the interviews tended to be abstract and didactic, while the moral valuations during the testimonies tended to be highly affective, as the veterans attempted to communicate the existential experience of war and the suffering that results from acting as involuntary perpetrators. As evidenced from these findings, sociological studies of morality would benefit from greater attention to the ways in which situational context, and researchers' methodological assumptions, affect the possibilities for moral meaning.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Goldfarb, Jeffrey
Commitee: Bernstein, Richard, Lukes, Steven, Sherman, Rachel
School: New School University
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 73/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social research, Ethics, Organizational behavior, Military studies
Keywords: Military veterans, Morality, Pragmatism, Testimony, United States, War, Witnessing
Publication Number: 3511253
ISBN: 9781267387868
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