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date: 17 July 2018

Summary and Keywords

The United States military is a frequent point of public conversation since the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. Approximately two and a half million service members have deployed in the Global War on Terror, and many have completed multiple deployments with almost 7,000 fatalities across operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Communication research on the military has a long history but since 9/11 has picked up pace with scholars seeking to understand the military’s relationship with the media, its discussion in the public sphere, and the interpersonal/familial experiences of service members and their families. The theoretical and methodological approaches are wide ranging within the discipline, but an intergroup perspective is noticeably absent. Many opportunities exist for answering intergroup communication questions, most notably at the military and civilian divide and, in turn, offering insight about and practical suggestions for communication within and about the military.

Given the numerous possibilities for intergroup communication research related to the military, researchers should seize the opportunity to bring new theoretical and methodological approaches to the area. One theory, which has not been used in the intergroup communication scholarship but has great potential for this part of the discipline, is relational dialectics theory. Relational dialectics theory (RDT) is a critical/interpretive theory/method package that explores the substance and form of relational talk with a keen eye for dominant and marginalized discourses. For example, intergroup communication scholars who study the military from an RDT perspective could help illuminate how different groups (e.g., military families and civilian families; same-sex military married couples; and opposite-sex military married couples) understand and construct, for example, their similarities and differences with the goal of improving their interactions. Intergroup communication scholars could use also RDT to study how multiple group-related discourses are present within military groups who have diverse membership (e.g., Family Readiness Groups, FRGs) where members constitute the intersections of several identities (e.g., military wives are simultaneously members of military culture but technically are not military personnel; members are also often simultaneously women, spouses, who, in some cases, are mothers who come from different socioeconomic and ethnic groups, as well as identify as officer or enlisted wives).

Keywords: military-civilian divide, military branches, families, marriages, parent-child relationships, communication, relational dialectics theory, discourses, contrapuntal analysis, intergroup communication

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