Social Anthropology
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The Afterlives of War

Combat Veterans’ Reintegration and Mental health, An Anthropological Approach

Prof Alex Edmonds (ERC Starting Grant)

This project examines combat veterans’ mental health, health care and reintegration.  While most research on the topic is conducted within clinical or psychological fields, the study takes a comparative, anthropological approach that aims to yield a holistic account of combat veterans’ experiences.  Carried out in four countries (the US, UK, Netherlands, and Israel) it examines how participants navigate the shifting military, healthcare, and sociocultural environments they face during and after military service. Methodologically, it combines semi-structured interviews and ethnographic research, an immersion method that studies behavior in naturalistic settings to explore complex or sensitive issues.  Research is being conducted with multiple actors: combat veterans and their families; mental health care providers; and clinical and military managers.  It includes participants with a mental illness diagnosis and those without one in order to “learn from the well.”  This multi-perspectival research design is expected to shed light on the differing meanings and value attributed to war, mental illness and health care, and how they shape possibilities for reintegration, healing, and social connecting. The study also seeks to generate nuanced, contextual and comparative knowledge that can be used to improve mental health care and social support policies and services.  The project is funded by a Starting Grant from the European Research Council.