IU history workshop to examine military labor

We’re not used to thinking of soldiers as workers. But, of course, they do some of the hardest and most dangerous work imaginable. They have bosses, and they get paid. That sounds like they are workers.

But if soldiers are workers, what sort of workers are they? Is their labor different or special? Do they have unique ways of giving it meaning? Does their role in experiencing violence color the way we think of the work they do? How do their experiences vary through history and by setting?

soldier statueThose questions and more will be considered in a day-long scholarly workshop organized by Michelle R. Moyd of the IU Bloomington Department of History. “Soldiering On: Military Labor in Global Historical Perspective,” will take place Monday, Oct. 27, at the Indiana Memorial Union.

Peter Guardino, professor of history at IU Bloomington, will deliver a keynote lecture, “’The Hardest Work that Ever Fell to Mortal Man’: Soldiers as Workers in the US-Mexican War, 1846-48,” at 12:30 p.m. in the IMU Slocum Room.

IU associate professors Moyd and Alex Lichtenstein will moderate panels, which will include papers on military labor in imperial Brazil, the British West Indies Regiment, the Korean War, the Spanish and Philippine-American wars and other conflicts. Presenters are from IU and from Columbia, Dartmouth, Michigan State, Oakland University and the University of Southern California.

In addition to examining the status of soldiers as people engaged in labor, organizers say, the conference will contribute to current debates on the role of soldiers in society following periods of war, political violence, martial law or social unrest.

The workshop is free and open to the public, but panels will focus on academic papers that have been circulated to participants. For copies of the papers, email Moyd at mimoyd@indiana.edu.

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