Society for Medical Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Siachen Glacier is one of the longest non-polar glaciers in the world that lies beyond the Line of Control's northernmost point (NJ 9842) and is as yet un-demarcated. There have been border skirmishes in Siachen between the Pakistan and Indian militaries since its discovery in 1984 and it can therefore be considered the site of ongoing low-intensity warfare in a physically demanding landscape. With a focus on Pakistani soldiers who have battled on this front, in this paper, I explore the impact of protracted warfare upon the soldiering body. In particular, the paper inquires how the landscape, its description and its experience, may serve as the standing language by which to express the pain and suffering of war and ambiguities towards it. With a focus on both archival and ethnographic sources, this paper throws light on (1) the history of Pakistani military presence in Siachen, (2) the training required for this battle ground, (3) the pressures points and anxieties that this experience generates among the soldiers, and (4) the collective and individualized modalities that make the experience expressible or not, ranging from recollections to amnesia. By throwing light on how the particularities of the glacier are invoked in organizing, planning and undertaking military presence in this landscape and in recollecting one’s experiences, the paper attempts to open a way to think about the soldier's subjective experience of the landscape and its mediations through the body, which has received little attention in studies on combat trauma.