The Emotional Life of the Uniformed Crowd
The question of what a “crowd” is and how its emotional life can be characterized has naturally directed scholars’ attention to political demonstrators, football spectators, and participants in large civic and religious revivals. This paper explores what we might be able to say additionally about these issues by examining the physical gathering together of the personnel of a modern military. The military is certainly a crowd when it gathers soldiers together for mass exercise, movements, and parade, or for mass engagements with the enemy. The notion that the military is the very definition of a highly regulated, regimented, and normatively superior group, however, has prevented its being seen as a crowd, particularly as the notion continues to have force that the crowd is emotionally volatile and tends to irrationality and that the modern professional military does not. This paper asks how the problem of managing soldiers’ emotions has been tackled by the modern US military, noting that it has tended to focus on the emotions of individuals who have somehow broken away from the mass either via mental breakdown or by taking putatively rogue small mob actions against civilians as has occurred regularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. The larger question of what the crowd feels and does as a result, that is, what the emotional life and impetus is of the normal gathering together of thousands of soldiers for military action, continues to go unmarked and unremarked.
Catherine Lutz is the Thomas J. Watson, Jr. Family Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at Brown University and holds a joint appointment in the Department of Anthropology. She received her BA in sociology and anthropology from Swarthmore College in 1974 and her PhD in social anthropology from Harvard University in 1980. She is the author or co-author of many books and articles on a range of issues, including security and militarization, gender violence, and transportation. Writing and speaking widely in a variety of media, she has also consulted with a variety of civil society organizations as well as with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the government of Guam. She is currently a Guggenheim Fellow.
Selected publications: Unnatural Emotions: Everyday Sentiments on a Micronesian Atoll and their Challenge to Western Theory (1988); Language and the Politics of Emotion (ed. with Lila Abu-Lughod, 1990), Home Front: A Military City and the American 20th Century (2001); The Bases of Empire: The Global Struggle against US Military Posts (ed., 2009); Breaking Ranks: Iraq Veterans Speak Out Against the War (with Matthew Gutmann, 2010); Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and its Effect on Our Lives (with Anne Fernandez-Carol, 2010)