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Department of Politics and International Studies

Mr James Eastwood

BA History (Cambridge), MPhil Politics (Cambridge), MA Near and Middle Eastern Studies (SOAS)


James Robert Eastwood
Mr James Eastwood
Email address:
Thesis title:
The ethics of Israeli militarism: conflict and confession since 1982
Year of Study:
Internal Supervisors

PhD Research

"James' research explores how ethics plays a crucial role in sustaining Israeli militarism. It shows how ethics has become crucial both in motivating soldiers to participate in military service in Israel and in constraining political activism against Israel's military engagements. The research is based on several months of fieldwork in Israel/Palestine, comprising interviews with key informants and participant-observation.

Ethics and war are often intuitively understood as existing in antagonism with each other. The argument of this research, however, is that ethics can very easily facilitate the use of military violence, especially when ethical activity is used primarily as an opportunity to shape soldiers as subjects. This gives rise to a situation of militarism, in which processes of subject formation and military preparation intertwine and soldiers' experience of themselves as subjects depends on their ethical performance in war. The thesis draws on existing literature concerning militarism – both in Israel and in International Relations – which it combines with theoretical insights developed from the later work of Michel Foucault and psychoanalysis.

The thesis offers several empirical studies to demonstrate its argument. It analyses the ethical code of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), the teaching of military ethics in the IDF, and the role of ethical pedagogy at Israeli pre-military academies. It also investigates the work of the Israeli veterans' activist group, “Breaking the Silence”, which attempts to use a moral critique voiced through the testimonies of soldiers in order to campaign for the end of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Throughout it draws attention to how ethical practice, and especially testimony, contributes to militarist subject formation.

This research makes three principal scholarly contributions. Firstly, it provides a deeper understanding of militarism in Israel, giving an account of the ways in which it operates at the level of the individual subject. This strengthens existing accounts of militarism in Israel which tend to focus on the connection between social structure and military participation and on the growth of political religion in the military. Secondly, the research helps to develop a theory of militarism more generally which emphasises the importance of processes of subject formation and ideology. It seeks to demonstrate that present-day militaries seek the deep immersion of soldiers as subjects in military activity as a means of guaranteeing their participation. Finally, the research reformulates our understanding of the relationship between ethics and war, suggesting clear limits to the capacity for ethics alone to constrain the use of military violence."


Politics, History, Political and Social Theory, Middle Eastern Studies