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Is it easy to kill in war? Emotions and violence in the combat zones of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (1991-1995)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 October 2020

Siniša Malešević
Affiliation:
University College Dublin [sinisa.malesevic@ucd.ie].
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Abstract

The battlefields are spaces of death and destruction. In the combat zone soldiers fight and kill while witnessing the death of their comrades. These unprecedented life experiences are regularly shaped by strong emotional responses. In this paper I analyse the complex emotional dynamics of fighting and killing in the combat zone. I explore the war-time experiences of ordinary soldiers who fought in the 1991-1995 wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The paper is based on the interviews I conducted with the members of the Croatian Army and the Bosnian Serb Army who had direct experience of the battlefield. The focus is on the relationship between emotions and violence in the theatres of war with a spotlight on the personal experiences of fighting and killing. The paper challenges the existing interpretations of this phenomenon and argues that the killing in war is neither uniformly easy nor unvaryingly difficult but is context-dependent, variable and highly contingent. Furthermore, the acts of fighting and killing do not automatically trigger pre-existing and stable emotions but the violent processes themselves generate distinct emotional dynamics. Rather than simply following the violent actions emotions are in fact often made in the very acts of fighting and killing.

Résumé

Résumé

Les champs de bataille sont des lieux de mort et de destruction. Dans la zone de combat, les soldats se battent et tuent tout en assistant à la mort de leurs camarades. Ces expériences de vie sans précédent sont régulièrement marquées par de fortes réactions émotionnelles. Dans cet article, j’analyse la dynamique émotionnelle complexe des combats et des tueries dans la zone de combat. En particulier, j’explore les expériences de soldats ordinaires qui ont combattu dans les guerres de Croatie et de Bosnie-Herzégovine de 1991 à 1995. L’article est basé sur les entretiens réalisés avec les membres de l’armée croate et de l’armée serbo-bosniaque qui ont eu une expérience directe du champ de bataille. L’accent est mis sur la relation entre les émotions et la violence sur les théâtres de guerre, avec un intérêt particulier pour les expériences personnelles de combat et de meurtre. L’article remet en question les interprétations existantes de ce phénomène et soutient que l’action de tuer en temps de guerre n’est ni uniformément facile ni uniformément difficile mais dépend du contexte, est variable et très contingent. En outre, les actes de combat et de meurtre ne déclenchent pas automatiquement des émotions préexistantes et stables, mais les processus violents eux-mêmes génèrent des dynamiques émotionnelles distinctes. Plutôt que de simplement suivre les actions violentes, les émotions sont en fait souvent suscitées par les actes mêmes de combat et de meurtre.

Zusammenfassung

Zusammenfassung

Schlachtfelder sind Orte des Todes und der Zerstörung. Im Kampfgebiet kämpfen und töten Soldaten, während sie gleichzeitig dem Tod ihrer Kameraden beiwohnen. Diese beispiellosen Lebenserfahrungen sind regelmäßig von starken emotionalen Reaktionen geprägt. In diesem Aufsatz untersuche ich die komplexe emotionale Dynamik, die auf dem Schlachtfeld durch Kämpfen und Töten freigesetzt wird. Besonderes Augenmerk gilt den Kriegserfahrungen einfacher Soldaten, die zwischen 1991 und 1995 an Kriegshandlungen in Kroatien und Bosnien-Herzegowina teilgenommen haben. Grundlage sind Interviews mit Angehörigen kroatischer und bosnisch-serbischer Armeen, die in Kriegshandlungen involviert waren. Schwerpunktmäßig geht es um die Beziehung zwischen Emotionen und Gewalt im Kriegsgebiet, insbesondere die persönlichen Erfahrungen von Kämpfen und Töten. Der Aufsatz hinterfragt die gängigen Interpretationsansätze dieses Phänomens und stellt die Behauptung auf, dass Kriegshandlungen wie Töten weder einheitlich leicht noch unveränderlich schwierig, sondern kontextabhängig, variabel und in hohem Maße unvorhersehbar sind. Darüber hinaus lösen Kampfhandlungen und Tötungsprozesse nicht automatisch bereits vorhandene und stabile Emotionen aus, sondern führen im Gegenteil zu einer eigenständigen emotionalen Dynamik. Die Emotionen entstehen direkt während der Gewalttaten, und nicht als Folgeerscheinung.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© European Journal of Sociology 2020

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