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Breathing like a soldier: culture incarnate



Breathing appears to be so natural and organic that it hardly seems worth analyzing. Yet to inhabit an institution can mean having to learn to breathe in culturally distinct ways. This chapter presents the findings of an ethnographic study of ‘learning to breath like a soldier’ in the army. I focus on the processes by which the body is transformed and new disciplinary techniques are developed, and present the body as an alternative category of cultural analysis to a vision of military culture as the internalization of norms, values and beliefs that shape identities and provide cognitive frames for social action. Cultural patterning in the army is not an abstract intellectual process, but takes place at the level of the body as it engages in practical activity in the training environment, and becomes adapted to the military milieu.

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