Since 2001, more than 700 European soldiers have been killed in the NATO-led ISAF operation in Afghanistan. In this war universal international values, rather than national territory, are said to be at stake. As the fallen soldiers are brought home, however, gendered representations of heroism are actualized and grief and compassion rooted in national narratives. It appears that while sending troops to fight for human rights and international institutions can be justified, the same values might be insufficient to carry the symbolic weight of legitimizing the deaths of European soldiers.

The aim of this comparative project is to examine how deaths of European soldiers in Afghanistan are given societal meanings and justifications and how these losses are politically framed and handled. Six countries with different war histories, geopolitical positions and gender regimes (Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK) will be investigated. Analysis of media narratives, parliamentary debates, official policies and commemoration rituals is included.

The project proceeds from the idea that these new military deaths transform established understandings of national belonging and ideas of women´s and men´s ultimate obligations in democracies. The research investigates, firstly how the losses in Afghanistan restructure relations between war, national identity and gender, and, secondly, how these reshaped national identities influence democratic discussions and practices.

Contact: Cecilia Åse, Maria Wendt and Hanne Martinek.

Publications

Maria Wendt & Cecilia Åse (2016), För Sverige – med livet som insats. Afghanistankriget, döden och demokratin. Statsvetenskaplig tidskrift, 118:3.