Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

William R. Travis

Second Advisor

Barbara Buttenfield

Third Advisor

Myron P. Gutmann

Fourth Advisor

Tim Oakes

Fifth Advisor

Gregory Simon

Abstract

Geographies of militarism seeks to both broaden and deepen the traditional purview of military geography, examining times and locations distant from battlefields, and delving into the emplaced, embodied experiences of individual soldiers. Combining this framework with other geographical theory about the mutually constitutive relationship of individuals and places, my dissertation brings these two strands of critical military geography together to argue that militaristic ideologies and practices act not only at the scale of the individual soldier but through him. The particularities of an individual’s military service predict not only of his own outcomes, but also influence broader trends that register in demographic metrics, popular rhetoric and spatial structures.

Focusing on rural American veterans of the First World War (an understudied subpopulation of an understudied conflict), I conceptualize these individuals as existing at the crossroads of home and front and use quantitative methodologies inspired by life course analysis and population geography to examine how these rhetorically dichotomous places were connected through the medium of individuals’ movements and social relationships. Specifically, I employ North Dakota’s WWI military roster, the 1930 US Census and a novel linked dataset that knits these two sources into quasi-longitudinal, military-civilian observations. Combining these individual data with county-level summaries, I analyze how the experience of particular military and civilian places predicted postwar social and spatial mobility and marital status, and how veteran status in concert with other characteristics predicted postwar population patterns. I chart the shifting articulation of military and civilian space through the aggregation of individuals at particular times and locations, and show how individual soldiers’ stories both met in places and helped to compose the character of those places. I conduct these analyses with logistic and regular regressions, spatial statistics, maps and visualizations.

My findings suggest the importance of the interaction of factors, and argue that the complexity and nuance of place-based, multi-scalar relationships cannot be read from dominant narratives of WWI based in the better studied European context. By drawing on geography and placing the soldier at the heart, my dissertation contributes a different and complementary perspective to WWI historiography while advancing geographies of militarism.

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