Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Patricia Clough

Committee Members

Lynn Chancer

Stanley Aronowitz

Jackie Orr

Subject Categories

Medical Humanities | Medicine and Health | Medicine and Health Sciences | Political Science | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Race and Ethnicity | Science and Technology Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Sociology | Theory, Knowledge and Science


War, Militarism, Violence, Military Anthropology, Medicine


Empty Metal Jacket: The Biopolitical Economy of War and Medicine undertakes study of how global conflict and violence shape the entire range of social production, from commodities and culture to social goods and social theory. The research presented in this work draws from cutting-edge theories in body and science studies, in addition to theories of affect and biopolitics to address how war became a problem solving paradigm in medicine. Combat casualties are shown to serve as a material nexus for medical knowledge production. Although the focus here is on medicine and medical innovation in particular, these developments are connected to developments in military science and battlefield strategy and tactics, and so they illustrate how violence organize knowledge across different realms of scientific endeavor.

This research situates important developments in medicine within a historical, economic, and political context to show how war and military ideas not only were extended into the social spaces of everyday life, they advanced in such a way as to help determine the conditions of possibility for life, living, and what it means to be human. In thinking through this multi-faceted configuration, I employ Foucauldian genealogical methods, covert ethnographic methods, and archival/historical interpretive methods to assemble case data that allow me to look at war’s impact on the social organization of medicine. Case findings illustrate a "non­linear history" that documents war's influence on medical innovation. I highlight these developments, but go one step further: I question the centrality of methodological positivism to research methods in the social sciences, which I argue are also a product of war and global conflict. Collectively, the findings support the claim that wounded soldiers have throughout history been used as medical test subjects to facilitate practice innovation and progress. Analysis shows how wounded bodies are produced within a circulating biopolitical economy of relations, where the radical undoing of the body forms the basis of a medical governance of control.

This work makes a contribution to theorizing violence and political economy, as it calls attention to the instrumental role played by wounded soldiers to life-saving medical advance; it suggests there is a need to re-think the transcendence of medicine through war and capitalism: wars turn soldiers into human subjects, who cannot ethically consent any more than medicine can ethically be practiced when its advance depends on violence.

Key words: Biomedicine, Militarization, Affect, Foucault, Biopolitics, Bodies, Embodiment, Civil War, World War One, World War Two, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Human Terrain System, Military Anthropology, Epistemology, Trauma, War, Violence, Medical Ethics