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Truth and (self) censorship in military memoirs. A five country study into military Afghanistan autobiographies
XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology (2014)
  • Esmeralda Kleinreesink
Sometimes it can be fairly difficult for outsiders to gain access to the military field. However, there is a rich source on the military that is readily available for every researcher: military memoirs. This source does provide some methodological challenges, nevertheless. One might wonder about the reliability (‘truth’) of these autobiographies and whether their content is affected by the fact that these books are prone to official censorship by the military in order to preserve operational security. This study shows that truth and (self) censorship are not only a concern for researchers, but also for military writers themselves and it gives insight into the way soldier-authors deal with these issues. This study provides concrete quantitative data based on all military memoirs published between 2001-2010 dealing with Afghanistan experiences from five different countries (UK, US, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands). The majority of soldier-authors make some kind of truth claim (either in the form of a subjective or objective truth) in their books that they also substantiate. Books published by traditional publishers do so significantly more often than self-published books. At the same time, military authors also frequently admit to some form of self-censuring, especially anonymising names is an often mentioned method. So truth claims and self censorship do go hand in hand. From each of the countries studied, at least one author mentions being actively censored by the military, but most don’t even mention it, making censorship a common military feature, that is almost normal for military writers. Making truth claims, mentioning being censored, or self-censoring do not influence the kind of plots these authors write either in a negative, or positive way.
  • Soldier-author,
  • autobiography,
  • military memoir,
  • methodology,
  • truth,
  • censorship,
  • literature,
  • cross-cultural,
  • Afghanistan
Publication Date
July, 2014
Citation Information
Esmeralda Kleinreesink. "Truth and (self) censorship in military memoirs. A five country study into military Afghanistan autobiographies" XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology (2014)
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