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ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Moral conflict in a (post)war story: Narrative as enactment of and reflection on moral injury

Robin Conley Riner

Corresponding Author

Robin Conley Riner

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia, USA

Correspondence

Robin Conley Riner, Marshall University, One John Marshall Drive, Huntington, WV 25755, USA.

Email: [email protected]

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Bryan D. Carnes

Bryan D. Carnes

Special Tactics, USAF, Dayton, USA

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First published: 05 January 2024

Abstract

This article examines the discursive construction of moral conflict in a military veteran's (post)war story. By closely examining the linguistic details of a single veteran's narrative of war, this article addresses how moral conflict is revealed in shifts among varying modes of morality: from the conventional moral dispositions of the military, in which soldiers are socialized into acting, often violently and without reflection, to conscious ethical reasoning, which soldiers have historically been socialized not to engage in. The analysis of this veteran's narrative, informed by ethnographic research on veterans’ experiences of combat and return after deployment, outlines how structural and linguistic components of the narrative engage shifting modes of moral experience. As such, the article provides a critical discussion of moral injury, as well as a potential model for the study of language and morality.