I am in the second year of my PhD in the Department of Social and Policy Sciences at the University of Bath. I’m funded by the Economic and Social Research Council via the South West Doctoral Training Programme and supervised by Dr Oliver Walton (University of Bath) and Dr Sarah Bulmer (University of Exeter).
My research explores the way in which women counterinsurgents have been and are constructed in formal and informal discourses by the military and development sectors. This includes everything from how they are described in speech to how they are written about in doctrine and policy. I will be analysing a number of moments or events in British counterinsurgency campaigns, namely Malaya, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and contemporary operations. It’s also worth adding that I am ex-military having served for over ten years as a Naval Air Engineer so that an element of my study has involved my own reflections on my military service and particularly gendered experiences. It has taken some time to find an ‘academic home’ especially with an undergraduate degree in Aeronautical Engineering but I now feel comfortable describing myself as a Critical Military scholar.
Here’s the abstract for my study:
As the British Army adjusts to a new, post-Afghanistan, political landscape and moves to integrate the ‘gender perspectives’ rhetoric of the UN, insurgencies remain a global threat and the theory of countering them is being revisited. Contemporary British counterinsurgencies have been strongly influenced by the ‘classical’ principles derived from the Malaya campaign which were developed by military leaders who understood British interaction with the Malayan population to include an extensive ‘women’s outreach’ programme. Similarly, ten years elapsed in Afghanistan before before military policy relating to women was introduced. And yet there is an absence of women in the mainstream narratives of historic counterinsurgency campaigns. Using a Foucauldian genealogy of the discursive construction of ‘women as counterinsurgents’, I will employ semi structured interviews, focus groups and archival records to uncover the power relations underpinning the discourses apparent at four moments in British counterinsurgency since 1950. I will search out discontinuities and forgotten discourses to understand the relationship between discursive constructions of women as counterinsurgents and dominant framings of counterinsurgency. This study intends to disrupt hegemonic notions of warfare prevalent in mainstream International Relations by challenging the influence of the gendered institution of the British military on discourses framing women as counterinsurgents.