Q&A with the author of TACTICAL INCLUSION

Jeremiah Favara, the author of Tactical Inclusion: Difference and Vulnerability in U.S. Military Advertising, answers questions on his new book.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?  

From seeing ads in magazines and on TV when I was a child to fielding phone calls from recruiters as a young adult, I’ve had some sort of relationship with military recruitment advertising for almost as long as I can remember. For me, this relationship was always kept at arms-length but for some of my friends and relatives, encounters with military advertising led them to enlist and subsequently face the realities of being a service member in the U.S. military. These experiences led me to question who is seen as recruitable and as vulnerable to the appeals of military recruitment advertising. These personal experiences dovetailed with an interest in the way discourses of inclusion and diversity have proliferated in an array of institutions, including the military. I was particularly interested in exploring how advertisers and the military developed a set of strategies to target and reach new recruits while portraying the military, an institution defined by exclusion, violence, and repression, as inclusive.  

Q: What is the most interesting discovery you made while researching and writing your book?  

I made many discoveries in the process of researching and writing but I think the most interesting one was learning about the scope of the military advertising industry. In looking through archives and combing through print magazines, I was struck by just how extensive the reach of recruitment advertising is. I found boxes and boxes of records from advertising agencies working on military contracts and looked at over a thousand recruiting ads. While most Americans have very little direct interaction with the military, so many consume media produced and shaped by the military advertising industry. As a feminist media studies scholar, I was and still am fascinated with the ways militarized media, though left relatively unexplored in critical scholarship, shape our understandings of violence, belonging, and the nation.  

Q: What myths do you hope your book will dispel or what do you hope your book will help readers unlearn? 

There are two primary myths that I hope Tactical Inclusion dispels. First, I think there is an assumption that military recruitment advertising traffics in overt and simplistic representations of patriotic, hyper-masculine nationalism. As the book shows, recruitment advertisements contain many subtle and nuanced contours that produce important knowledge about gender, race, class, sexuality, and martial subjectivities. Over the past few years, right-wing politicians and pundits have criticized diversity and inclusion in the military as part of a broader assault on “wokeness”. These attacks have contributed to a myth that diversity and inclusion efforts within the military are a recent phenomenon stemming from political and cultural influence from the left. By showing how inclusion within the military results from the industrial strategies of tactical inclusion that were developed over the course of decades and driven by a need for recruits and the market-logic of the all-volunteer force, Tactical Inclusion dispels this myth. In so doing, the book helps readers view diversity and inclusion in recruitment advertising as techniques of power deployed to bolster and reproduce the military institution.  

Q: What do you like to read/watch/or listen to for fun? 

I’ve read a lot of great books for fun lately, but some of my favorites have been Shark Heart by Emily Habeck, Lone Women by Victor LaValle, and Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez. I am constantly listening to music; Carly Rae Jepsen and Charli XCX are two favorites that I return to again and again.

Jeremiah Favara is an assistant professor of communication studies at Gonzaga University.

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