The Gratitude of the Nation? Veteran Agency, the State, and Society in Comparative Perspective
This panel seeks to explore, through a comparative perspective, the evolving political and social agency of war veterans in Russia, the People’s Republic of China and the United States during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Following World War One, the role of veterans took on new meaning as nation states sought to promote veterans as symbols of national sacrifice while simultaneously managing this increasingly visible, and potentially powerful, constituency. The study of the relationship between veterans, the state and society has come to dominate the historiography of veterans yet much of it is conducted within specific national fields, with little opportunity for comparison across time and place. This panel will employ an explicitly comparative analysis of three central themes in recent veterans’ historiography: state discourse about veterans and its relationship to social reality; the ability, or wherewithal, of veterans to establish themselves as a status group; and the evolving perception of veterans within society. Our goal is to promote attention to and discussion of veterans’ history beyond just the halls of academia, with a desire to engage journalists, policymakers and concerned citizens.