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A soldier’s journey: An arts-based exploration of identity

Butler, Craig (2017) A soldier’s journey: An arts-based exploration of identity. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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My time in the army has past but I still see myself as a soldier. Why is this identity still salient beyond my career when I no longer have a role “as” a soldier? How did this soldier identity form, how did it develop and how complex is it? In order to gain a deeper understanding of the creation, development and maintenance of various military identities through a life course within the military environment and broader society, I focus on the funds of knowledge that an individual member of a military organisation may internalise in his or her military identity work. Taking an autoethnographic approach and based on the developing theory of funds of identity, I apply an arts-based method and thematic analysis of seven of my military-related drawings and accompanying descriptive texts, as well as a description of my childhood and adolescence and desire to be a combat soldier. The evidence suggests that there are two forms of military identity work that I have conducted, a more personal “warrior/soldier” identity work and pragmatic or utilitarian “community of practice” identity work. Each has a progressive structure and associated funds of knowledge and is influenced by the history and geography of both the group and myself as an individual member. I find that even though operational and career experiences validated my community of practice identity work that my journey has always been one of chasing combat or warrior experience. Without that experience part of me feels that I have only been “playing soldier”. The thesis concludes with discussion on the implications for military identity research, particularly military-exit research, the further development of funds of identity theory, and the role of formalised or structured education and training in identity development.

Key terms: military identity, identity regulation, identity work, funds of identity, education and training

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
Supervisor(s): MacCallum, Judy and Glass, Christine
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