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Killing Matters: Canadian War Remembrance and the Ghosts of Ortona

Killing Matters: Canadian War Remembrance and the Ghosts of Ortona

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Title: Killing Matters: Canadian War Remembrance and the Ghosts of Ortona
Author: Cosh, David Ian
Abstract: This dissertation combines critical discourse analysis with person-centred ethnography to examine the dissonant relationships between Canadian war veterans' narratives and the national discourse of Canadian war remembrance. The dissertation analyses Canadian war remembrance as a ritualized discourse (named Remembrance) that is produced in commemorative rituals, symbols, poetry, monuments, pilgrimages, artwork, history-writing, political speeches, government documents, media reports, and the design of the Canadian War Museum. This Remembrance discourse foregrounds and valorizes the suffering of soldiers and makes the soldier's act of dying the central issue of war. In doing so, Remembrance suppresses the significance of the soldier's act of killing and attributes this orientational framework to veterans themselves, as if it is consistent with their experiences. The dissertation problematizes this Remembrance framing of war through an analysis of WWII veterans' narratives drawn from ethnographic fieldwork that was conducted in western Canada with 23 veterans of the WWII battle of Ortona, Italy. The fieldwork consisted of life-story interviews that focused on veterans' combat experiences, supplemented by archival research and a study of the Ortona Christmas reconciliation dinner with former enemy soldiers. Through psychoanalytically-informed discourse analysis, the narratives are interpreted in terms of hidden meanings and trauma signals associated with the issue of killing. The analysis shows that many of these veterans were strongly affected by killing even when they did not know if they had killed and even though most of them tried to suppress their dissonant affects. In sum, these Ortona veterans' narratives constitute dissonant acts of remembrance that unsettle the limited moral frame within which Canadians imagine war.
Subject: Cultural anthropology
Canadian studies
Psychology
Keywords: war
violence
commemoration
memory
veterans
trauma
emotion
narrative
psychoanalysis
oral history
discourse analysis
ethnography
sacrifice
civil religion
museums
pilgrimage
ritual
militarization
military history
Remembrance Day
Canada
Italy
Second World War
Anglosphere
Christmas
Christianity
Vimy
Ortona
Canadian War Museum
London Edmonton Regiment
Seaforth Highlanders of Canada
12th Armoured Regiment (Three Rivers Regiment)
Type: Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Rights: Author owns copyright, except where explicitly noted. Please contact the author directly with licensing requests.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/29746
Supervisor: Yon, Daniel Arthur
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Program: Social Anthropology
Exam date: 2014-11-21
Publish on: 2015-08-12

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