Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Awards

James Eastwood

SOAS University of London

2016 Winner (Social Sciences)

James Eastwood

James Eastwood

The Ethics of Israeli Militarism: Soldiers’ Testimony and the Formation of the Israeli Soldier-Subject, Politics and International Studies
Politics and International Studies, SOAS University of London
Supervised by Laleh Khalili

The 2016 Malcom H. Kerr Dissertation Committee in the Social Sciences received 19 nominations for the award.  The Committee consisted of Mona L. Russell of East Carolina University who served as chair, Marwa Elshakry of Columbia University, and Arang Keshavarzian of New York University.

The winner in the Social Science category is “The Ethics of Israeli Militarism: Soldiers’ Testimony and the Formation of the Israeli Soldier-Subject,” by James Eastwood.  His dissertation was completed at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Department of Politics and International Relations.  It was supervised by Laleh Khalili, Yair Wallach, and Charles Tripp.

Dr. Eastwood’s dissertation is a meticulously researched and deftly argued analysis of an important topic – the relationship between ethics, war, and the consequences of the militarization of society.  Based on extensive field research, including interviews, participant-observation, and close reading of Israeli military materials, Eastwood argues that ethical formulations sustain Israeli militarism and limit the horizon for political critique.  Eastwood engages and synthesizes theoretical debates in psychoanalysis and critical studies of subject-formation to explore how military training and the valorization of testimony fashion soldiers as “moral” subjects.

This dissertation demonstrates that ethics motivates soldiers to participate in Israeli military actions as well as constrains anti-occupation activism by veteran’s groups.  The committee was particularly impressed with Eastwood’s ability to extend his ethnography and research to examine the official Israeli military pedagogical system as well as veteran activist groups such as “Breaking the Silence.”  In doing so, Eastwood deepens our understanding of how the militarization of society can be maintained by reconfiguring ethics as a vehicle for political apathy and violence, rather than empathy and political solidarity.

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