Dehumanization in War and Combat: Rhetoric and Practice
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This research addressed dehumanization in times of war by considering the discourses of veterans from conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. I will analyze sources of non-fiction and fiction literature, and interviews archived in After Combat: The Voices Project of soldiers’ and veterans’ spoken words and tones to grasp the concept of dehumanization in a war setting. I define dehumanization in formal and colloquial terms to situate my research method in rhetorical analysis. I derived a theory I call the Dismembered while analyzing the sources listed above. I will discuss and define my theory of the Dismembered as persons who are no longer considered part of the collective that is human; as well as the theory having basis in Judith Butler’s account of precarious life, and other influences. My research evaluates whether the process of dehumanizing military combatants, or the “enemy,” is a manifestation of military culture or a social exaggeration generated by civilians viewing war from an outsider’s perspective. This work is particularly crucial given the image the United States projects to the rest of the world, and specifically given the impact the military extends in shaping the image of the United States. Thus, the possible civilian communication about soldiers dehumanizing people could misrepresent the truth of military duty and life in war settings. From my research, I hope to gain an accurate definition of dehumanization in areas and times of war, and what in such setting generates the rhetoric that results in the dehumanization of the opposition.
Oliver, Olivia A (2018). Dehumanization in War and Combat: Rhetoric and Practice. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from