Human Technologies in the Iraq War
Naomi Shira Stone
Amidst increasing academic interest in “post-human” war technologies of surveillance and targeting, my dissertation conversely examines the ramifications of militarizing human beings as cultural technologies in wartime. I claim that “local” intermediaries are hired as embodied repositories of cultural knowledge to produce the soldier as an “insider” within the warzone. I focus on Iraqi former interpreters and contractors during the 2003 Iraq War who currently work as cultural role-players in pre-deployment simulations in the United States. In a new contribution to scholarship on war, my ethnography is staged within mock Middle Eastern villages constructed by the U.S. military across the woods and deserts of America to train soldiers deploying to the Middle East. Among mock mosques and markets, Iraqi role-players train U.S. soldiers by repetitively pretending to mourn, bargain, and die like the wartime adversary, ally, or proxy soldier they enact. Employed by the U.S. military in the post 9-11 “Cultural Turn” as exemplars of their cultures but banished to the peripheries as traitors by their own countrymen, and treated as potential spies by U.S. soldiers, these wartime intermediaries negotiate complex relationships to the referent as they simulate war. In my dissertation, I investigate the epistemological and affective dimensions of this wartime trend, as wartime intermediaries embody culture for training soldiers, but not on their own terms.