When Gender Theory Explains Suicidal Behavior: Theoretical and Empirical Challenges of Suicide during Compulsory Service in Greece

Angeliki Drongiti, Université Paris 8

The rate of suicide during the compulsory in Greece is 6 times higher than among civilians. To analyze this tabooed phenomenon, I combine socio-ethnological methods, such as interviews, archives, statistical data, and fieldwork. For this presentation, I use interviews with soldiers that have attempt suicide during their service and with officers, military psychiatrists and parents of suicidal soldiers. This state of affaires raises a paradox: How an institution that claims to create “real men” provokes suicidal behaviour? The main goal of this talk is to explain these suicide attempts through the prism of masculinity expectations and to define a typology of suicide of these youths in camouflage uniforms. The army represents one of the types of total institutions cited by Goffman (1961). The conscripts are subjected to a particularly masculine socialization process. Spatially separated from civilian society in general and from women (Bessin, 2002), they learn their masculine role by performing domestic chores, extreme physical activities and psychological oppression. Some of those activities correspond more to the prototypical feminine roles, which is exactly the antithetical nature of this demand: a “real man” must first taste the social place of women (Devreux, 1997). Suicide is approached as a result of socialization and more specifically of its two aspects, regularization and integration. According Durkheim’s typology this group falls into two categories: fatalist and altruist (Durkheim, 2007 [1897]). The first has to do with the procedure of socialization, which creates an excess of regulation – the military authority crushes an individual’s personality. The second aspect deals with the extreme adherence of soldiers in the institution, thereby explains the high rate of suicide at the end of the service. The men “stuck” in the role of soldiers by desperation and fear of the new role expected to have in society after their release.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 136. The Political (AB) Uses of Sources and Theories to control Gendered Bodies