Once were Warriors: The Militarized State in Narrating the Past

South Asian History and Culture

Author/s (editor/s):

Bina D'Costa

Publication year:

2014

Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:
Taylor & Francis

Published in South Asian History and Culture, 5(4) 2014: 457-74.

Military memoirs often seek to reproduce an authoritative understanding of warfare that delineate important strategies of the frontline. The soldier-narrator invokes a shared sympathy between the different, though connected, worlds of the soldiers and the civilians. This essay proposes that the complex processes of racial and gender identification experienced by the colonized resulted in the production of their own discourses about identity, and examines how colonial categorizations of difference inflected the racial and gendered construction of heroes and enemies in wars. Sifting through the military memoirs of four Pakistani Generals, this essay analyses how Pakistani genocidal masculinity was constructed and manifested during the independence struggle of Bangladesh. It inquires what myths and stereotypes contributed to the militarized performances of masculinity? Through an analysis of how the bodies of both Hindu minorities and women were symbolically used in the war to construct national identity, this essay proposes that militarization as a hegemonic masculine discourse was predicated on, and justified through, a range of ideological logics of order and chaos, of revolts and counter-insurgency measures that advanced and legitimized military action in 1971. This essay also argues that by offering their personal understanding of history, politics, and honour, these memoirs claim (and justify) the right to use violence.

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