The (in)Complete Warrior: Technology, Limb Loss and the Reformation of Identity
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Over the past century, American society has witnessed great advances in medical technologies. While innovations such as organ transplants, sonograms, and artificial prostheses are generally seen in a positive light, there are sometimes unforeseen ethical and moral issues that accompany their implementation. Within the medical system of the U.S. military these issues are compounded in unique ways. New surgical methods are allowing soldiers to survive and eventually recover from even the worst injuries, leading to an unprecedented number of U.S. combat veterans returning home from deployment missing one or more limbs. Through the application of advanced prosthetic systems, these veterans are not only able to recover but to return to or even exceed full physical functionality. The research presented in this paper explores the impact that medical technologies have on service members, including how “useful bodies” are rebuilt through the application of medical technologies, and how the wounded veterans experience and perceive this reformation of identity. This phenomenological study of three veterans dealing with limb loss explores how the magnified drive for usefulness within the U.S. military compounds with new medical technologies to recreate useful bodies and rebuild personal identity.