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Victor Turner and the theatre of war: A reflection on the value of Psyops, culture and performance during conflict

Troselj, Ivana (2011) Victor Turner and the theatre of war: A reflection on the value of Psyops, culture and performance during conflict. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Conventional 'force-on-force' warfare is a thing of the past (Kilcullen 2009: 292). Much has changed in the conduct of war since Carl von Clausewitz's opus on War (Clausewitz 1997) was first published in 1832; the ongoing digitisation of the contemporary battlefield promises swifter and more intense battle at a lower cost-to-combat ratio (Goldenstein and Jacobwitz 1996: 10); while a rise in low-intensity and insurgent war is anticipated to continue within the developing world (McLaughlin 1989: 1-2). The only thing one may say with any certainty about the future of warfare is the diverse nature of its conduct (Black 2001: 82); an the enduringly psychological nature of all kinds of human conflict (Paddock 1996: 33).

Despite this, contemporary Western militaries continually re-enact the principles of conventional war; even where unsuited, while the psychological dimension of war is often the least appreciated and engaged (Stillwell 1996: 319), even though it is 'human' forces that provide conflict with its many variables (Leonhard 2000: 209-2011). A misunderstanding of these forces has resulted in a shortfall of resourcing, continuity and training for Psychological Operations (Psyops) (Paddock 1996: 34); while appreciation for the soft power of Psyops and the human elements of war have been diminished by an empirical, neo-Clausewitzian strategic framework (Van Crevald 1991: 148-149) and a particularly Western and Postmodern notion of Technological Determinism (Black 2001: 97). I believe that importing Victor Turner's performance theory into existing military doctrines will provide a useful heuristic model for working with these problems, because of its unique perspective on the dramatic power of symbol, performance and conflict; and I believe that this will further enhance the military's understanding and appreciation of Psyops' unique capabilities, along with the more human elements of warfare; while supplying a much-needed process-oriented understanding of human culture and conflict at strategic level.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Grehan, Helena
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