I am in the final 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).
Here is a working abstract for my study:
2018 saw all British military roles opened to women and yet it is a myth to say that women are only now able to serve in ‘frontline combat’. Women have been overtly and physically present in war zones and yet distanced from notions of combat by the acceptable narrative constructed around their work. The voices of servicewomen are largely absent from critical feminist scholarship and connections remain absent between the literatures of military identity, gendered policies and combat exclusion. Using a Foucauldian genealogy to explore the discursive construction of ‘women as counterinsurgents’, I employed semi-structured interviews, focus groups and archival records to uncover the discontinuities and forgotten discourses to and their relationship with the ‘front-line’ and combat’. The male fighting force is visible and central to the story of the Malaya Emergency and yet women’s war labour has become invisible. In Northern Ireland, the British Army tried and failed to control the narrative of women’s participation to contain them as unarmed non-combatants. And in Afghanistan, the narrative of FETs was again controlled to present a façade of support, undermined from the inside. The author embeds her personal narrative throughout the thesis capturing the journey from practitioner and policy maker to critical feminist scholar. The British Army has repeatedly attempted, but failed, to control women’s war labour through their construction of a simple bounded and unquestioned ‘front-line’, ‘combat’, and campaign narratives. But, women have repeatedly transgressed the front-line demonstrating agency in negotiating their (invisible) participation. This interdisciplinary thesis recentres women’s voices to undermine the imposed tools of their exclusion.