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Department of Politics and International Studies

James Eastwood

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


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James Eastwood
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Thesis title:
The ethics of Israeli militarism: conflict and confession since 1982
Year of Study:
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PhD Research

Following earlier research into the activities of an Israeli veterans’ group and into Israeli soldiers’ literature from the 1948 war, James’s research concerns the ways in which conflict has been experienced ethically by Israeli soldiers since the beginning of the First Lebanon War. The phenomenon of disillusioned Israeli soldiers talking and writing openly about their military service has been a pronounced and growing feature of Israeli society. Yet conflict has simultaneously persisted unabated, prompting observers to dismiss such practices as marginal or insignificant. Explanations tend to focus on the failures of high-level diplomacy, strategic developments, or the growth of religious nationalism both in the army and in society.

Instead, James proposes to take such ethical practices seriously, to measure their prevalence, and to investigate the reasons for their failure to bring about change in the political and military situation. Re-examining existing scholarship on “militarism” in Israel, James intends to deploy a more nuanced formulation of the concept which does not reduce it to a voluntarist enthusiasm for war but which rather describes the ways in which individual subjectivities are formed and made dependent on participation in war. He will explore the possibility that a certain form of ethics may have helped to construct and reinforce militarist subjectivities in Israel. This investigation will involve a detailed engagement with the extensive theoretical literature on the relationships between ethics, subjectivity, and politics, and especially with the ways in which each has been articulated through confession.

In undertaking this research, James will conduct a detailed analysis of soldiers’ written and recorded accounts of war arising both through political organisations and in cultural representations. He will also conduct fieldwork in Israel to speak with soldiers who have undertaken these activities and to observe their social and political origins and significance.


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