Soldier and Society: Anthropological Perspectives

Soldier and Society explores how Denmark’s recent engagements in international military operations affect social and cultural imageries of the Danish soldier, and how, consequently, the Danish civilian is re-imagined too.

Underlying specific renderings of ‘the soldier’ is a fundamental distinction and opposition between the civilian and the military. While the civil-military distinction is typically treated as an aspect of political or social organisation, we employ the terms ‘civilian’ and ‘military’ as cultural or folk notions that designate particular qualities, values and norms. The terms can be used to describe, categorise and valorise such things as individuals, bodily posture, emotions, social situations, activities, institutions, national identity or artefacts. From this perspective ‘civilian’ and ‘military’ appear as dynamic and flexible terms that are given meaning and value in particular contexts.

Soldier and Society consists of three individual sub-projects that explore the revival and transformation of ‘the soldier’ from three distinct, but closely related perspectives. Taken together, the sub-projects provide more comprehensive ethnographic and theoretical understandings of ‘the soldier’ as a crucial figure in contemporary Danish society.

The three sub-projects are:

  • From untested to initiated (Thomas Randrup Pedersen):
    (How) can military service and war-zone deployment transform soldiers into stronger human beings, professionally as existentially?
  • From warforce to workforce (Birgitte Refslund Sørensen):
    (How) can soldiers’ experiences and skills be translated and put into use in civilian workplaces and educational contexts?
  • From war to culture (Mads Daugbjerg):
    (How) does Denmark’s recent participation in war influence Danish commemoration and national identity?