The meaning of war through veterans’ eyes: A phenomenological analysis of life stories

Edna Lomsky-Feder*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


This paper deals with the meaning of war as it is articulated in war veterans’ life stories and with the interpretive-phenomenological mechanisms through which the war experience is integrated into the course of their lives. The research is based on 63 life stories of Jewish Israeli men (all names are pseudonyms) who fought in the 1973 Yom Kippur War as part of their regular military service, in a variety of roles; half of them held combat positions and half were support staff. The stories were chosen from a clearly defined social group: middle-class, educated and secular men. The analysis of their life stories was derived from a phenomenological conceptual framework. The claim of this paper is that just as war is institutionalised and normalised into the Israeli macrosocial order, so too the individual integrates and co-opts it into his personal biography. Israeli soldiers do not represent the experience of war as a traumatic experience but rather as a ‘normalised experience’ in their lives, contrary to the findings reported in the general literature about war veterans. The life stories reveal two interpretive-phenomenological mechanisms used by interviewees in normalising the war experience: the contiguous (the experience is integrated in the course of life by means of previous social knowledge) interpretation of war and the dual interpretation (the war is simultaneously part of and outside life) of war.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)463-482
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Sociology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1995


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