Off-Duty Resilience: Re-orienting Tourism, Leisure and Recreation in the US Army BOSS program

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Understanding how US imperial strategy is sustained by tourism and militarism requires an account of how American soldiers learn to understand themselves in relation to a variety of marginalized others. This paper explores how the US Army’s ‘Ready and Resilient’ (R2) campaign constructs soldier / other relations by mobilizing off-duty time through the ‘Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers’ (BOSS) program. BOSS’s first two platforms of ‘Well-Being’ and ‘Community Service’ feed into the R2 agenda by producing highly-skilled leaders (who govern a disengaged rank and file) and benevolent humanitarians (who provide charity for abject civilians). When these dispositions are transposed into BOSS’s third platform of ‘Recreation and Leisure’, soldiers turn away from the goals of leadership and humanitarianism to reveal the privileged narcissism underscoring the R2 agenda. This self-focus is intensified by familiar power relations in the tourism industry as soldiers pursue self-improvement by commodifying, distancing and effacing local tourist workers. Using the BOSS program as a case study, this paper critically interrogates how the US Army is assimilating off-duty practices of tourism, leisure and recreation into the wider program of resilience training.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)747-768
Number of pages22
JournalAmerican Quarterly
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2016


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