How Much Is a Dead Soldier Worth?

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: Booth 50
Oral Presentation
Emily GILBERT , University of Toronto, University of Toronto, ON, Canada
How much is a dead soldier worth? This paper will interrogate the monetary value ascribed to the death of solders in the 21st century, and the narratives of sacrifice and heroism that infuse military fatalities. Rather than focus on public funerals and burial, I explore the more intimate (yet no less social) acts of valuation and compensation that are navigated by surviving relatives. Questions regarding the price of death are particularly interesting to consider as civilian compensation has become a regularized  component of counterinsurgency strategy. Monetary payments have been made in the event of the ‘inadvertent’ death, injury or property damage of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a way to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the population, and demonstrate the compassion of the international forces. How are the lives (and deaths) of civilians and soldiers of different countries valued differently, and for how much? What logics of compensation are articulated? And does compensation in contemporary warfare reconfigure the distinctions between soldier and civilian? These questions will be considered alongside the increasing pressure to reduce deaths, of both soldiers and civilians, as a result of the targeted and remote-controlled strikes of the revolution in military affairs.  As tensions regarding death in war increase, how does this impact on how lives are valued, and on our understanding of military service in contemporary warfare?