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Paper: On being a Gulf veteran: an anthropological perspective

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  • Robert Karl Stonjek
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences ISSN: 0962-8436 (Paper) 1471-2970 (Online) Issue: Volume 361, Number 1468 / April 29,
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2006
      Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
      ISSN: 0962-8436 (Paper) 1471-2970 (Online)
      Issue: Volume 361, Number 1468 / April 29, 2006
      Pages: 697 - 706
      DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2006.1828
      On being a Gulf veteran: an anthropological perspective

      Susie Kilshaw A1

      A1 University College London, University of London Department of Anthropology Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK


      There is no doubt that Gulf service has affected the well-being of some of the members of the UK armed forces who served in that conflict, yet the reason for this remain unclear. At present, the debate surrounding Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) has become stagnant and highly polarized. This paper argues that a new perspective is needed to further improve our understanding of the problem and suggests that the methods and theories of anthropology, with its focus on nuances and subtleties, can provide new insights. Data were generated from 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork in the UK including participant observation, semi-structured interviews and document analysis. Anthropology provides a unique way of approaching and understanding somatic symptoms and suggests that GWS symptom reporting can be seen as a form of communication. The work focuses on the sufferers' accounts, the symptoms themselves and the context within which we find them in order to better understand what was being expressed and commented upon. Although necessary to contextualize GWS through situating it among other emergent illnesses and widespread health beliefs, this paper shows there is a need to bring back the particular. This work seeks to make sense of the cultural circumstances, specific and general, which gave rise to the illness.

      Abstract and Full Text Links at The Royal Society
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      Robert Karl Stonjek
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