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Veterans in Society:

Ambiguities & Representations

10-29 July 2016


Blacksburg, VA,   and   Washington, DC

2016 NEH Summer Institute for College and University Teachers

2016 NEH Summer Institute for College and University Teachers

Veterans in Society:

Ambiguities & Representations

10-29 July 2016


Blacksburg, VA,   and   Washington, DC

What does it mean to be a veteran

To whom? For whom?

This NEH Summer Institute for College and University Teachers focuses on the meanings and implications of the deceptively simple, profoundly liminal category, veteran, not only as it is used in today’s discussions of U.S. military personnel returned from fighting wars of recent memory but also in light of selected works about and by veterans that cross historical eras, national boundaries, and creative and interpretive genres.   [See Virginia Tech press release.]


For three weeks, our institute will be a learning community looking at veterans and society, though not necessarily in ways societies or veterans valorize.  But we are also citizens, of whom a significant portion will identify themselves as veterans.  While we are together we will aim to increase and enrich the understanding of veterans in their societies – civilians’ understanding of veterans, veterans’ understanding of society, and veterans’ self-understanding – which we can apply in our scholarship, classroom teaching, and/or civic engagements.  


While many of the topics and works we address use veteran in familiar ways and settings, we hope that very familiarity will call attention to gaps and inapt generalizations, hierarchies of persons and experiences,  and misperceptions of contexts and contingencies.   

We will encounter some of the literatures bearing on veteran-ness, exploring their contours, looking for hidden narratives as well as connections.  We will also encounter narratives off the pages – in other media, in built environments, in our conversations with one another – and we should reflect on them.  For the most part, our reflections will have a strongly American cast, but we encourage historical and international perspectives that will enrich our learning community, just as they might be useful in addressing opportunities and needs in diverse communities and larger polities. 

Our approach involves engaging leading scholars, veterans, and practitioners who serve in conversation around ways that humanistic, artistic, and social science approaches to veterans in society can promote, deepen, and refine understanding across boundaries.


Moreover, to assure diversity of orientation and values, the organizers and our faculty include both veterans – officers and enlisted, with peacetime and wartime service – and civilian scholars representing several disciplines. As a result, institute participants from all backgrounds will be able to more fully understand the scholarly, social, and personal dimensions involved in the interactions of veterans in society, as well as the ways in which civilian society represents and interacts with veterans and their families.


Summer Scholars will use institute resources to develop or enhance their own projects applying institute themes in their research, teaching, and/or civic engagements.  Collectively, we will build a core bibliography of veterans studies, topical annotated bibliographies bearing on individual research projects, and instructional modules in veterans studies, which will

all be made available to the public through this site.



Contact information




Dr James Dubinsky

Director, Center for the Study of Rhetoric in Society

Department of English (MC 0112)

340c Shanks Hall
181 Turner St NW
Blacksburg, VA   24061

(540) 231-1939




Email us: or

Dr Bruce Pencek

College Librarian for Social Science & History

University Libraries (MC 0434)

3050 Newman Library

560 Drillfield Dr

Blacksburg, VA   24061

(540) 231-2140

The Veterans in Society: Ambiguities and Representations 2016 summer institute for college faculty is a project of
Virginia Tech's Center for the Study of Rhetoric in Society and the University Libraries.  

The 2016 Veterans in Society summer institute has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.  Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this the institute or this website, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities nor Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

© 2015 by Virginia Tech.         Site created with

  • ViS institute Facebook group
  • ViS Twitter hashtag #ViSNEH2016
  • ViS LinkedIn conference group
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