This article considers the essential and unenduring attachments among grievously war-injured US soldiers remaking their lives at a military hospital. Their sense of being in common makes life bearable, but they do not constitute a community or even a cohort. Their profound attachments are especially brittle, breaking off cleanly as the contingencies of their unstable bodies intervene. Here, the enduring temporality of the social is secondary to practices of being between emergence and collapse. Addressing sociality here is not a romantic celebration of precarity or resilient intimacies. The article does not invest sociality and its residual social formations with lasting or redemptive force. Simply put, intimate and institutional attachments, both elected and involuntary, remain vital in the presence of pain even if they do not herald a hopeful futurity. In-durable sociality emerges as an ethics for now, situated in sociopolitical and material arrangement of the American afterwar that papers the present over with imagined futures: the individuating triumph of rehabilitation, the collectivizing identification with a war that could seem worth it, the stabilizing conjugation of we in a heteronational domestic life. The article traces injured soldiers’ experiences of being in common with others askance to this constellation of things to come, relating sociality to bare facts of perdurance.
in-Durable Sociality: Precarious Life in Common and the Temporal Boundaries of the Social
Zoë H. Wool is assistant professor of anthropology at Rice University, where she is also a core faculty member in the medical humanities program and an affiliate of the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Her first book, After War: The Weight of Life at Walter Reed (2015), was awarded honorable mention for the 2016 Gregory Bateson Prize.