New Book Looks at Militarization of Everyday Life

A special double issue of TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies is also being published as a book by Cape Breton University Press. It examines the role that militarization plays in our lives and its effects on civic culture, a conflicting combination of secrecy and spectacle that shapes public feelings, opinions and fears.

Cultures of Militarization, edited by Jody Berland, York University, and Blake Fitzpatrick, Ryerson University, features contributions from 22 international scholars and artists.

Drawing on a rich array of research and interdisciplinary resources, the authors explore how human relations, social policies and cultural values come to be defined by military interests, and how such interests might be freshly understood. They delve into the notion that the culture of war is both hidden and widespread, reaching deep into civic culture and affecting government, families, media, entertainment, public policy and personal beliefs.

Berland cites as evidence the recent WikiLeaks expose of classified U.S. military documents of previously unreported deaths and many uninvestigated acts of torture. “It's interesting to note that U.S. military operatives face military discipline, not for atrocities or misinformation, but for leaking of classified documents,” Berland says.

“And while civilian deaths and acts of torture have been kept invisible and secret, it's impossible to miss the images of invasion and imprisonment that circulate the world on the internet, on TV and in video games,” she says.

This mixture of secrecy and spectacle was recently rehearsed in the streets of Toronto, where unprecedented security measures surrounding the G20 summit have become the subject of at least three public inquiries.

Berland cites other prominent examples: the Pentagon's classified budget for research and acquisition of information development has increased 78 per cent since 2001, totalling $34 billion in 2009. “Our Canadian military commits $9 billion to F35 fighter planes while remaining smug on questions regarding their fiscal, technical and military justification,” she says.

Berland notes that this widespread increase in militarization not only affects war zones. In the town of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, there was recently hot debate about the naming of a new school after Jimmy MacNeil, a Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan in July 2010. From coast to coast, yellow ribbons adorn trees and lampposts, while in Ontario, Highway 401 is now known as the Highway of Heroes.

“Military culture is everywhere,” Berland says. “Ultimately, we are all living with the consequences.”

TOPIA is published twice annually by Cape Breton University Press and Wilfrid Laurier University Press. Journal subscribers will receive the special double issue; the book is available from Cape Breton University Press.