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The introduction queries what counts as ordinary and what counts as extraordinary in situations of life marked by violence, as well as who makes such designations and for what purpose. It outlines the general circumstances of injured soldiers at Walter Reed and offers historical context for understanding the centrality of the soldier to national ideals of masculine personhood by sketching the history of the valorization of soldier bodies in America and the exceptional worth vested in them in the contemporary moral landscape. This exceptional status offers an acute lens through which to think about the essential problem of biopolitics in contemporary life, that is, the ways different kinds of human lives are unevenly valued, despite and through liberal democratic claims that all lives are equal.

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