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Military Experience and the Shaping of Nationalism in the U.S. Armed Forces

Zook, Carolyn (2016) Military Experience and the Shaping of Nationalism in the U.S. Armed Forces. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This study examines the agency of individuals, their understanding of nationalist messages, and how these messages are then incorporated back into the everyday. Specifically, I ask: What combat experiences explain a soldier’s critical, nationalistic, or mixed attitude toward the U.S. following their combat deployment? What structural factors resonate at the individual level? How are broad messages of national unity, sacrifice, and patriotism interpreted and consequently incorporated into everyday lives? Sociological work on nationalism has largely ignored the American case, as well as individual level data in current research on nationalism; gaps this dissertation aims to fill. To answer these questions, I used a mixed methods approach to collect and analyze two data sets: 1) a quantitative survey on nationalistic attitudes of soldiers, and 2) in-depth, semi-structured interviews with U.S. soldiers who served in combat zones of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. These questions were conceptualized by focusing on three key areas of solders’ combat experiences: 1) Recruitment: Soldiers who enlisted because of 9/11 will view their combat experiences with a more nationalistic view than those who enlisted prior to 9/11. Findings showed that 9/11 was not as important of a factor as initially thought, but rather that soldiers are committed to service in general; 2) Combat: Soldiers who served in a combat zone will rationalize significant experiences with a more nationalistic view than those who report no experience of significant or difficult events. Findings suggest that soldiers did not overtly make a connection with their significant experiences using national rhetoric, but they do maintain ideals rooted in the values and beliefs of the country; 3) Returning Home Post-Deployment: Soldiers who return home to widely accessible resources and support networks will have a more favorable view of their military experience and a more nationalistic narrative than soldiers who return home to limited or difficult to navigate resources. Findings suggest that social networks made for both an ease of transition to civilian life, but also complicated it in terms of strained family dynamics.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Zook, Carolynzook717@gmail.comCLZ10
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairKutz-Flamenbaum, Rachel rflamenb@pitt.eduRFLAMENB
Committee CoChairBamyeh, Mohammedmab205@pitt.eduMAB205
Committee MemberDuck, Waverlywod1@pitt.eduWOD1
Committee MemberZickmund,
Date: 15 June 2016
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 24 March 2016
Approval Date: 15 June 2016
Submission Date: 14 April 2016
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 229
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Sociology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: nationalism; patriotism; military; combat
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2016 23:25
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:32


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