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(Re)Producing American Soldiers in an Age of Empire

  • Isabelle V. Barker (a1)

While there has been little data gathered as to the presence of migrant workers in service occupations on U.S. military bases in Iraq, the data that do exist along with anecdotal evidence gathered by journalists suggest that the division of reproductive labor on military bases reflects an underexplored axis in the global organization of social reproductive labor. Due in part to the privatization of these services, the vast majority of vital support service labor is outsourced to and performed by men migrating from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Nepal, and Pakistan. This globalized division of reproductive labor is a site of symbolic politics that reinforces the gendered dimensions of the national identity of the American soldier. This division builds off of a long tradition of gendered dynamics framing military service. The displacement of reproductive labor, which remains coded as effeminate, onto poor migrant men serves to reinforce the aggressive masculine version of American soldiering in a way that smoothes over differences among soldiers along the lines of race, class, rural or urban origin, and even gender. Echoing earlier colonizer–colonized relations, this division of labor in turn supports the increasingly imperial posture that the United States has assumed in the world.

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