Military femininities and soldierly identity in the Iraq War autobiographies by female U.S. veterans | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 19, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1388-3186
  • E-ISSN: 2352-2437



Within the last decade, several studies have analysed the life-writing produced by veterans of the U.S. American war against – and the ensuing occupation of – Iraq (2003-2011). These studies are beginning to offer insightful analyses of several autobiographies written by Iraq War veterans; they focus almost exclusively on male combat veterans, perpetuating a bias that has shaped the genre of autobiographies of war in the United States and the subsequent scholarly analyses of these autobiographies for decades, if not centuries. My paper begins to address this bias by focusing on two autobiographies by female soldiers, namely Jane Blair’s (2011) and Heidi Squier Kraft’s (2007). As the nineteenth-century biographies that Jo Burr Margadant has analysed, these texts can be considered ‘collage[s] of familiar notions merged in unfamiliar ways’ (Margadant, 2000, p. 2), as both of them portray the experiences of female soldiers in a combat zone and thus trouble those assumptions about combat, identity, and gender that continue to structure more traditional American life-writing about war. In my analysis I show how the autobiographical subjects in these texts are constructed through what I call ‘military femininities’. Drawing in part on conceptual and theoretical work done by Judith Butler, Leigh Gilmore, and R.W. Connell, I argue that these military femininities are instrumental in creating female autobiographical subjects that are authorised to talk about war in the cultural context of the contemporary United States, and thus in establishing soldierly identities for American women more generally.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): gender identity; Iraq War; War on Terror; women’s autobiography
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