Catherine Lutz is an anthropology professor at the University of North Carolina, and the author of Homefront: A Military City and the American 20th Century. Lutz spent six years interviewing over eighty people and reading historical documents before writing her book. The book has been considered controversial as it is critical of the military and of the city of Fayetteville. Some people living in the Fayetteville area and those in the military feel she is simply an ivory tower intellectual who is anti war. They view the book as a political statement.
Lutz is an anthropologist and not a politician and claims she is attempting to show the impact hosting the military establishment has had on Fayetille, North Carolina. Catherine Lutz grew up as a teenager during the Vietnam War, and developed a great interested in the military culture. The book explores and attempts to explain and understand how a town mobilizes and prepares to become involved in war. She is opposed to the current war and has been somewhat of an activist on the University of North Carolina campus. This is what has led some people to automatically criticize her book as politically motivated.
The intent of the book though, is more of an anthropological study on a very small basis, just one town. It seems more a story about the town, though her politics are clear. The book may have been better, and less criticized if she had kept it more clearly an anthropology book and left the political statements out. Fort Bragg was founded in 1918 as a base of operation during WWII. Fort Bragg was named after Confederate General Braxton Bragg and was developed into a military base as a result of local people who encouraged the government, with incentives to use the region for this purpose.
Having the military come to North Carolina seemed like a privilege. The base was established and became the home to a training ground in the use of artillery and other heavy weapons. It was an Army post where the country could prepare as needed for military action. Lutz chooses Fayetteville as she felt it could be used to evaluate, the relationship some of our citizens have with war and preparedness, and the impact on them and the town. Though politics run through the book, Homefront is really more about military culture and that is what makes the book worthwhile reading.
Catherine Lutz uses Fayetteville, North Carolina as a microcosm to examine the influences of the military. The book tells the story of the city and its people growing influence of the U. S. military over the century. Lutz’s book weaves the everyday life of Fayetteville today, with the history and traces the growth of the military presence and its effects on the economic and social environment in Fayetteville. Lutz visited Fayetteville many times when writing the book and spoke to hundreds of residents, civilian and military.
She used the town to gather and offer insight into what a base town tell us about how society mobilizes for armed conflict. She researched local, state and federal information and reviewed data on the city’s history she makes a connection to national security that comes from Washington, D. C. and the local community. It is interesting to read the history of the city from the development of Fort Bragg until recent years. The mix of historical information and recent personal interview make the book interesting to read.
What the author found on her visits to Fayetteville was that the city is a mix of businesses, middle class homes as well as poverty, poor schools, and crime. Throughout the book, Lutz talks about the many different s people and system and tells their individual stories of connect ness and impart of the military. For example, developers are anxious to get the military contracts and the work that results form the military families living there. In the book, Fayetteville is used as a case study of what it’s like everyday for real people to live in an environment that is constantly preparing for a war.
As the book describes the town, it says it is a military stronghold. Military is the major industry of the city. Along with the positive aspects of military life and economy, comes the bad. The bad things include strip clubs, prostitution, pawnshops, and surplus stores stocked with weapons and war gear. There is also of course the constant reminder of war from the noise of combat practice with planes flying at low altitudes. The author asserts that it feels like someone else is actually running Fayetteville, meaning Washington D. C. The book explores the issues specifically for race, class, and gender.
It looks at the increase in domestic violence, the incidence of bias crimes, and the increasing gap between low income and middle class. The author observes that it’s sometimes hard to notice the negative in a military environment which tend to “spit-shine” the image of military life. The negative consequences are camouflaged. For the well to do in Fayetteville, there have been the benefits of added wealth from the development that Fort Bragg created. Because the city relies almost solely on the military and hasn’t expanded industry in other areas, available jobs for center around low paying retail jobs.
There has been an unfortunate increase in the presence of prostitutes. The book explores the impact that environment has on the town, including high rate of venereal disease. Over the year, the town has acquired nicknames such as “Fayettenam” and “Fatalville”. Lutz quotes a person she interviewed as saying many people think of Fayetteville, as I have been told again and again, as a place to get a dozen beers and a sexual disease. ” It isn’t all negative though, the diversity of the people who have come to Fayetteville with the military have brought with it ethnic richness and global feel.
The book is neatly broken down into chapters that each focus on a particular era for Fayetteville and the U. S. military. Homefront begins with the opening of Fort Bragg in 1918 and tells the sad story about how a former slave, John Nichols refuses to leave his land, which was to become Fort Bragg. In future chapters she talks about the female role in the military, Jim Crow laws and the growing role of technology. As WWII ended, and the Cold War began, Fayetteville began to experience the early nuclear age and learned about nuclear warfare and technology.
People living in the areas became accustomed to warfare simulation games. Fort Bragg’s training missions take soldiers into the city to act out war situations. Though Fayetteville’s civilians are notified when the soldiers will be training, for example, for a nuclear events or an invasion, the effects on the everyday life of citizens are explored in the book. During Vietnam, Fayetteville was as conflicted about the war as was the rest of the nation. And there was a group of GI’s, some Vietnam veterans, United against the War.
In 1973, as a result of the protest across the country to the draft, the United States returns to an all voluntary military As technological development became more important to the military, the distinction between civilian and military become even more blurred. The distinction between those highly skilled and those unskilled has become clearer. The authors talks about the blurring of the lines between civilians and military and again, questions who is running Fayetteville, as it feels at times like the military controls the town . In her last chapter, Lutz introduces the idea of Hot Peace.
She defines Hot Peace as meaning that the military is active on peace keeping missions internationally, but not technically at war. She feels that Hot Peace is partially responsible for a resultant restructuring of the military. This happened through downsizing and privatizing. These changes, according to Lutz, made civilian and soldier less divided, the line between the two became blurred. Soldiering became less dangerous, and civilian work became more war-like. The book begins by noting the difference between military and civil life, and ends by noting the blurred distinction.
The book is very well researched and is interesting to read and is mixes history with real life interview of people living in Fayetteville today. Her politics and opinions are clear and she concludes that the effects of the military essentially dominating a town are not good overall. She makes some interesting points about how the military and civilian roles have become more blurred with advances in technology. As the military must rely on more highly trained engineers and scientist, much of the work is privatized. The continued effect of this on the military and military towns will be interesting to note in the future. .