Johanna Söderström
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This chapter introduces the setting for the book and its aims, and describes the layout of the book’s argument. The introduction situates the book within a broad literature on former combatants, and shows how the book builds on previous literature in a number of different respects. The notable continuities across the Global North–South divide in the literature on former combatants pertaining to life after war highlight the importance of making comparisons across boundaries which are often taken for granted, and the book hopes to encourage these literatures to speak more to each other. The introduction shows that while there have been calls for such studies in the past, very few have taken on this challenge. The introduction also explains how this book tries to bridge this gap by studying different types of former combatants from different wars. The book is based on fifty life history interviews with former combatants in Namibia, Colombia, and the United States. Their political life is unfolded through examining how their identity, networks, and activities are shaped by the legacy of war and coming home. The introduction also explains some of the data collection strategies, and rationale for using life histories and life diagrams: these enable an insider’s perspective as well as a more long-term, dynamic, and holistic perspective. These are elements which have been missing in the current literature on former combatants.

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