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Fighting Sleep: The War for the Mind and the US Military
Nudelman, Franny
Verso Books / Hardcover / 2019-10-01 / 1786637812
Military
reg price: $33.95 our price: $ 28.86
160 pages
In Stock (Ships within one business day)

Sleep in war and against it

On April 21, 1971, hundreds of Vietnam veterans fell asleep on the National Mall, wondering whether they would be arrested by daybreak. The Vietnam Veterans Against the War had fought the courts for the right to sleep in public as part of their week-long demonstration, Dewey Canyon III. When the Supreme Court denied their petition, veterans decided to break the law and turned sleep into a form of direct action.

Sleeping soundly on the National Mall, activist veterans challenged not only the will of the courts but also a clinical record that is rife with sleepless soldiers and insomniac veterans.

During and after WWII, military psychiatrists used sleep therapies to treat an epidemic of traumatized soldiers who suffered from "combat fatigue." Inducing deep and twilight sleep in clinical settings, they studied the effects of war violence on the mind and developed the techniques of brainwashing that would weaponize both memory and sleep. In the Vietnam era, radical veterans reclaimed the authority to interpret their own traumatic symptoms--nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia--and pioneered new methods of protest.

In Sleeping Soldiers: Militarism and Dissent in the Age of Expansion, Franny Nudelman recounts the struggle over sleep in the decades following WWII, arguing that the sleep of soldiers was instrumental to the development of military science, professional psychiatry, and anti-war activism. Traversing the fields of military and mainstream psychiatry, popular and institutional film, documentary sound technology, brain warfare, and postwar social movements, she demonstrates that sleep, far from passive, empty, or null, is a site of contention and a source of political agency.

Reviews:

“Sleep seems to mark a realm wholly separate from public affairs, but Fighting Sleep reveals its methodical colonization by the US national security state and its surprising centrality to Cold War American politics and culture. Moving deftly between film and public protest, military psychiatry and veteran experience, documentation and reality, Franny Nudelman charts a fascinating pathway from the CIA mind-control experiments and the ‘brainwashing’ scare of the Korean War era to the troubled sleep of the traumatized veteran, the endless wakefulness of the POW, and the emergence of a veteran’s movement focused on the right to sleep in public.”
—Timothy Melley, author of The Covert Sphere: Secrecy, Fiction, and the National Security State, Professor of English and Director of the Miami University Humanities Center

“In this lucid and moving cultural history of the US from the end of WW2 through the Vietnam War, Franny Nudelman explores the problematic status of sleep for soldiers damaged by the trauma of warfare. Writing against the instrumental logic of sleep as the recuperation necessary for a return to service and combat, she poses the passivity and vulnerability of sleep as an interval of refusal, of healing, or of oblivion in relation to the imperatives of a militaristic society. A revelatory book.”
—Jonathan Crary, author of 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep

“Sleep seems to mark a realm wholly separate from public affairs, but Sleeping Soldiers reveals its methodical colonization by the US national security state and its surprising centrality to Cold War American politics and culture. Moving deftly between film and public protest, military psychiatry and veteran experience, documentation and reality, Franny Nudelman charts a fascinating pathway from the CIA mind-control experiments and the ‘brainwashing’ scare of the Korean War era to the troubled sleep of the traumatized veteran, the endless wakefulness of the POW, and the emergence of a veteran’s movement focused on the right to sleep in public.”
—Timothy Melley, author of The Covert Sphere: Secrecy, Fiction, and the National Security State, Professor of English and Director of the Miami University Humanities Center

About the Author:

Franny Nudelman is Professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, where she teaches U.S. culture and history. She is the author of John Brown's Body: Slavery Violence and the Culture of War, and co-editor, with Sara Blair and Joseph Entin, of Remaking Reality: U.S. Documentary Culture After 1945.

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