Dissertation Abstracts

State Imaginaries and the Movements against the Vietnam and Iraq Wars

Author: Brissette, Emily , erbrissette@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: University of California, Berkeley, USA
Supervisor: Michael Burawoy
Year of completion: 2013
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: state imaginaries , antiwar movements , political subjectivi
Areas of Research: Political Sociology , Historical and Comparative Sociology , Communication, Knowledge and Culture


The question animating this dissertation concerns the very different trajectories evinced by the US movements against the Vietnam and Iraq Wars: the former growing steadily from modest beginnings, the latter displaying an initial burst of intensity before largely disappearing from public view. Offering a complement and counterpoint to political process theory, I construct an account of these different trajectories by foregrounding the way that the larger political-cultural milieu shapes political subjectivities and hence capacities and styles of action. I focus particularly on the dominant set of assumptions about the state and citizenship in each era, which I call “state imaginaries.” Weaving together original archival research and insights from social movement studies and political theory, I argue that the dominant state imaginary in the US shifted in the years between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War, from an imaginary of the state based fundamentally on consent, in which actors understood themselves to be complicit citizens, to an imaginary of the state as an alien and invasive force, in which actors worried about being potential prey. I draw out the implications of these different state imaginaries for the form of politics in each era, through case studies of the draft resistance and counter-recruitment movements.

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