York-based journal looks at militarization of everyday life

A special double issue of TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies – also being published as a book – examines the role that militarization plays in our lives and its effects on civic culture.

“Cultures of Militarization,” edited by Jody Berland (right), professor in York’s Department of Humanities, and Blake Fitzpatrick, professor in the School of Image Arts at Ryerson University, features contributions from 22 international scholars and artists.

Drawing on a rich array of research sites and interdisciplinary resources, the authors explore how human relations, social policies and cultural values come to be defined by military interests, and how such interests might be freshly understood. They delve into the notion that the culture of war is both hidden and widespread, reaching deep into civic culture and affecting government, families, media, entertainment, public policy and personal beliefs.

Berland cites the recent WikiLeaks exposé of classified US military documents as evidence of the hidden aspects of war. “It is interesting to note that US military operatives face military proceedings not for atrocities or misinformation, but for participating in leakages of classified documents,” Berland says. “And while civilian deaths and acts of torture have remained invisible and secret, it’s impossible to miss the images of invasion and imprisonment that circulate the world on the Internet, on TV and in video games.”

Berland cites other prominent examples: the Pentagon’s classified budget for research and acquisition of information development has increased 78 per cent since 2001, totalling $34 billion in 2009. “Our own military spends $9 billion on F-35 fighter planes while remaining silent on questions regarding their technical and military justification,” she says.

Berland notes that this widespread increase in militarization does not only affect war zones. In the community of Glace Bay, N.S., a debate rages about the naming of a new school after Jimmy MacNeil, a Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan in June 2010. From coast to coast, yellow ribbons adorn trees and lampposts, while in Ontario, Highway 401 is now known as the Highway of Heroes.

“Here in Toronto, we saw it play out in the streets during the G20 summit. Military culture is everywhere. Ultimately, we are all living the consequences of global militarization,” Berland says.

subscribers will receive the special double issue; the book is available through Cape Breton University Press. It will be formally launched at the Gladstone Hotel’s Melody Bar on Dec. 6, from 6 to 8pm. All are welcome. 

For more information, visit the TOPIA website.