This July I spent a few wonderful days at the SCOS conference in Nottingham, UK. This is one of the truly inspiring academic conferences with a welcoming athmosphere and great presentations. The theme for this year was HOME, and it was impressing to see what people had done with this. Me, I as part of two presetations. The first with Stphen Webley on home and war.
“This is my Home!”
WarDaddy (Brad Pitt) referring to ‘Fury’ his Sherman Firefly tank in the film of the same name. 2014.
War is hell, we tell ourselves yet war and ideology mobilises the concept of the home to motivate the human mind to accept the hell of warfare. Popular culture refers to this aspect of combat motivation in books, films and games, yet this ideological act of fantasy has very real connotations. During the 20th Century the ideologies of modern war negated the concept of home itself. The Fatherland of Nazi Germany dictated that every home becomes a pillbox and every cellar a fighting retreat. In Soviet Russia every city became a fortress under siege, furniture became firewood and objects of comfort took new forms, just as every pet became a potential meal. Every trench became a home that fostered its own new brand of communal existence and the politics of trench socialism. In modern war even technology itself became home – submariners and sailors, tankers and pilots all referred to their war machines in the context of home.
During the Cold War the threat of nuclear Armageddon saw the creation of bunkers as underground survival spaces capable of supporting small communities for considerable time. However, even though modern War Studies was born out of the ideological ur-moment of the French Revolution and the creation of the modern nation state, it has no language to explore the workings of ideology and how it motivates the human mind to war. Whilst War Studies has had a long accepted that ideology is an important aspect of war, the analysis of the organising potential of ideology has been unable to bridge the gap between the dyadic of Clausewitzian philosophy (1832) and Jominian doctrine (1862). This gap coalesces in an inability to differentiate the capacity for war from the act, an inability to analyse the logics of war from within war itself, obfuscating attempts to evaluate the motivations, fantasies, and desires that support the reality of war (Masco 2013).
This paper examines how concepts of home have been utilised by ideology and fantasy to support and justify the reality of the horrors of war. Utilising theories from military history and War Studies (Keegan 1997), philosophy (Gray 1974) and military psychoanalysis (Bion 1940) & (Lacan 1955), this paper examines traditional ideas of combat motivation in combination with the study of neuroses in wartime and group analysis. Using a case study of different representation of home in war: trenches, tanks, ships and other spaces this paper build a conceptual understanding of how home is constructed and understood. The paper concludes that there is indeed similarity between group behaviours and family organisation in the home and the ideological survival space, both in peace and wartime. The human mind is repetitively drawn to the voyeuristic gaze of the destruction of the homely and the Inertia of the Real; the trauma and anxiety of war can indeed become homely, and the homely can indeed become warlike as soldiers quickly adopt familial roles. Moreover, in the 21st Century the wartime motivators of coercion, narcosis, inducement and the adoption of peacetime familial roles become interchangeable in the ideological survival spaces we call our homes.