Hierarchies of grief and the possibility of war: Remembering UK fatalities in Iraq

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In her recent work, Judith Butler offers a critique of war that revolves around the related issues of what she calls the grievability of lives and the framing of violence. This article explores aspects of the remembrance of UK military personnel killed on Operation TELIC in Iraq, drawing on Butler's powerful arguments about the way in which some lives are produced as more grievable than others. It explores a particular set of obituaries from Operation TELIC: those posted by the Ministry of Defence on its website. The concern is not with the fact that some lives remain unacknowledged, but rather with how the loss of lives that are acknowledged as grievable is represented. The obituaries here are a significant part of the production the frame that makes war possible. In Butler's scheme of grievable Western lives versus ungrievable non-Western lives no consideration is given to members of the military whose lives are grievable and yet put at risk in order, apparently, to protect other lives. Introducing this complication makes it possible to examine further how hierarchies of grief enable the possibility of war. © The Author(s), 2009.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-440
Number of pages21
JournalMillennium: Journal of International Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009


  • Grief
  • Memory
  • War


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