The U.S. Military and Cultural Knowledge

Søren Duvander

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis investigates the U.S. military’s way of training their soldiers in cultural knowledge. The cultural awareness in The U.S. military increased in the wake of World War II, and the need for an understanding of foreign countries and their culture became an integrated part of the military’s practices. The involvement of the academic scholars in the production of cultural knowledge about “The Others” has created polemic discussions about the strategic use of academic knowledge in conflict situations. This thesis examines the U.S. military training programs in the Vietnam era and during the period of the counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan and Iraq, with the purpose of acquiring a deeper understanding of the historical development between the two periods. This has been conducted with a distinct focus on the cultural awareness and how the military is describing the intentions of such awareness. Edward Said, and his general thoughts presented in the publication Orientalism (1978), has been used to get a critical view on the cultural knowledge, as laid out in military training programs. Said has written about the West’s patronizing representations of the East and his critical view is highly discussed in today’s perceptions of The United States’ engagement in the Middle East.

The presence of cultural awareness in both periods has been evident, however, this thesis concludes that the development between the two periods is characterized by a significantly greater involvement of academic scholars gathering cultural information in the production of the military training program in 2006. The programs from 1967 are created in a more behavioral sense, with the purpose to prepare the soldiers to show cultural sensitivity in the involvement with civilians. In conclusion, the intention behind the use of cultural awareness shares one certain similarity which is the goal of a more efficient counterinsurgency campaign and to finish the war quick and painless.

EducationsHistory, (Bachelor/Graduate Programme) Graduate
Publication date30 May 2018
Number of pages72
SupervisorsJakob Egholm Feldt