Lecture Series - Katharina Gerund (Erlangen): Unofficial Ambassadors? Military Spouses in the Transatlantic World
“Unofficial Ambassadors?” Military Spouses in the Transatlantic World
18. January 2021, 18:15
In the context of the so-called Cold War, the US military began to facilitate military spouses joining deployed service members around the globe at a large scale. Military spouses overseas, as Donna Alvah has shown, often became “unofficial ambassadors” of US culture and functioned as agents of soft power diplomacy. My talk will take this postwar role as a starting point and focus on the (partially) new assignments for military spouses since the transformation of the US military to an all-volunteer force and especially in the context of the “Global War on Terror.” Based on the analysis of various cultural representations of military spouses in the 21st century (incl. magazines, life-writing, and fictional portrayals), I will show how (transatlantic) mobility, travel, and cultural contact shape public discourses on and by military spouses. Yet, I argue that military spouses in the cultural imaginary of the US have primarily become unofficial ambassadors stateside, tasked with a double mission: to promote the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and to bridge the growing “familiarity gap” between civil society and military culture.