November 08, 2009

Tracking stereotypical military language

Native American veterans sought for ‘Words of War’ project

By Gale Courey ToensingAn anthropology professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston is inviting Native American veterans to participate in an anonymous online survey to track the relationships between Native American history, colonial wars, and U.S. military language in conflicts of the last 50 years.

Professor Steve Silliman of the university’s Department of Anthropology, said the project, called “Terms of Engagement: Understanding the Words of War,” is designed to study how military personnel use figures of speech to explain, describe, or get through times of conflict.

“We are interested in knowing how often certain phrases--such as those that refer to “the Wild West,” “Indian country,” or “cowboys and Indians”--were used in particular wars, who used them, and when. Many have studied the larger contexts of war or have made assumptions about those who fight in them, but few have studied directly the experiences and words of those who participate in the military and how these relate to Native American history and culture today. We want to hear directly from the soldiers and officers themselves about their experiences,” Silliman said.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Indians in the Military.

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