Missed an edition of our monthly newsletter? Don't worry we've linked all out previous newsletters below in full!
July Newsletter: Military Transformation
'Military transformation' is a theme many of you are working on and even if it is not a term you directly identify with through your work, you would probably be hard pressed not to find an aspect of 'military transformation' that didn't relate to your research in some way. Perhaps 'military transformation' takes the form of changes in policy impacting on work with veterans and families or maybe it is about how militaries have learnt lessons and adapted through history, or even the applicability of 'military transformation' to other security institutions. However your path crosses with this theme you should find plenty of diverse material to stimulate thought and conversation in the rest of the newsletter. We were delighted to see a panel on the theme convened by our committee member, Lucie Pebay at the recent British International Studies Association conference and populated with participants drawn from an earlier DRN workshop. It is great to continue that conversation here on our newsletter - we hope you enjoy the read!
Moving to our committee, our super Co-Chair Jemma Humphries will be heading off to America on the road trip of a lifetime with her husband from October and will be stepping back from the DRN (although she has promised to keep us posted on her travels!). Lucy Wray has kindly agreed to step up to Co-Chair with Hannah West and we will be in a period of transition for the next couple of months as we work together as a three and Jemma hands over to Lucy. We are really grateful for all Jemma's hard work in moving the DRN forward, supporting the committee and her dedication to the website, thank you and good luck for your travels.
And finally, we will be having a break in August and we really hope that you will be able to as well. We recognise the important of breaking with routine, stepping back and putting our feed up for a bit so that we can come back refreshed in September. We hope that you will be doing the same at some point and wish you all a well deserved break. There will be no theme for August and no twitter hour or newsletter but we will be raring to go come September and look forward to engaging with you all then. Have a lovely summer!
Thank you all for your ongoing support and do talk to us about anything you need help with.
Hannah West, Jemma Humphries and Lucy Wray
Co-Chairs of the Defence Research Network
See the full newsletter here: Military Transformation
June Newsletter: Finishing a PhD
This month we are going to use this editorial, not to trail what is coming up in the newsletter (as we are sure you will figure that out) but to start a conversation about how the DRN is attempting to breakdown barriers. As our network has matured and the PhD students that set it up have increasingly completed their PhDs, we want to hear from you about how you have been affected by these barriers, what you would like to see done to respond to them and how you would prioritise them.
- The Masters student - PhD student Divide. We recognise that this is a big step up and commitment. It can be daunting if you don't have others you can talk to about what this is like. We want to open up the conversation that enables current PhD students to share their experiences with those thinking about taking this step.
- The PhD student - Early Career Researcher Divide. We know that some of us have found that the 'Dr' title can seem to widen this artificial gap, blurring the fact that often the 'Dr' is only a few months further on. ECRs have so much to offer the PhD student having recently bee in their shoes so we want to help facilitate this conversation to demystify writing up, vivas and the early career steps that follow.
- The Policy/Practitioner - Researcher Divide. As a network we recognise we are well placed to bridge a gap between government/MOD/charities and academic research. Many of the spin-off initiatives we have started, for example the Counterinsurgency Forum, do exactly this and to the mutual benefit of those involved. We are really keen to champion this and ask some difficult questions to make sure that research is reaching those writing policy or working in the fields being written about.
We have spent much of the early part of this year working on reaching out to partner organisations to explore collaborations. Building on our discussions we really want to move these conversations forward and would love to hear from you if you have ideas you would like to talk to us about or if we can work with you or your organisation on these themes. Drop us an email ([email protected]) or connect on twitter!
Thank you all for your ongoing support and do talk to us about anything you need help with.
Hannah West and Jemma Humphries
Co-Chairs of the Defence Research Network
See the full newsletter here: Finishing a PhD
May Newsletter: Intelligence
This month we are returning to a popular theme of 'intelligence' and have been delighted to collaborate with the Secrecy, Power and Ignorance (SPINS) Research Network and the Women's Intelligence Network (WIN) on our Twitter Hour. Reflecting on intelligence, reminds us of the unclear boundaries surrounding what is classified as intelligence rather than mere information. How is it that something becomes intelligence? Are all voices listened to in the gathering and sharing of intelligence? Who and what are acceptable subjects about which intelligence is gathered and how do they become so? We've enjoyed reflecting on different perspectives on intelligence this month and you can explore this theme further through our recount of the twitter hour below. Our news section also considers contemporary uses of intelligence and, in particular, its application in the war in Ukraine.
We have some fantastic opportunities to get involved with our network this month. We are delighted to share that we will be at the British International Studies Association conference being held in Newcastle from 15-17 June so come and say hi at our stand there. Do let us know if you are going to be presenting there so we can promote your panel/roundtable? And, we are thinking of arranging an informal social gathering in the margins of the conference so ping us a message or email if you'd be interested in meeting some friendly faces in person and we will keep you posted.
This month sees the launch of the first DRN Monthly Writing Group! We are really excited to see some of you there and share a supportive space to help you along with your writing. Check out the section below with more information about this and how to register. We will also be holding our next online seminar in the 'Roads to and from a PhD' seriesthis month followed by our first face to face event since 2019 at Kings College at the end of the month (see the following section for more about these).
Thank you all for your ongoing support and do talk to us about anything you'd like to see or need help with.
Hannah West and Jemma Humphries
Co-Chairs of the Defence Research Network
See the full newsletter here: Intelligence
April Newsletter: All Things Maritime
This month's theme of 'all things maritime' is new for the Defence Research Network! Throughout the past 6 years of the DRN we have focused on themes that have been key areas of research for the membership and the committee. Focusing on 'All Things Maritime' is not only our way of exploring a new area of research, it is also a poignant time to reflect and better understand an important Maritime operation - the Falklands/Malvinas war.
As many of you will know 2022 marks the 40th Anniversary of the Falklands/Malvinas war. The conflict saw 649 Argentinian, and 255 British Armed forces personnel killed, in the short space of just 74 days. The Falklands/Malvinas war is commonly understood as a conventional war, deploying naval ships, ground forces and aerial attacks. A large part of the conflict played out on the numerous ships that formed the British Task Force, setting sail for the southern hemisphere.
Throughout this edition of the DRN newsletter we explore diverse ways of understanding and making sense of the Falklands/Malvinas war. From the Minefield documentary that explores both Argentinian and British perspectives of the war, to PhD research that focusses on southern hemisphere geopolitics. Alongside the Falklands/Malvinas war, this issue focuses on other Maritime research areas such as pirate groups, and first hand accounts of life in the Royal Navy!
We hope you enjoy this step into the unknown with the 'all things maritime' theme! Also be sure to check out our events and opportunities sections!! There are lots of things to get involved with!
Hannah West and Jemma Humphries
Co-Chairs of the Defence Research Network
See the full newsletter here: All Things Maritime
March Newsletter: Welfare of Veterans and Military Families
We are so fortunate as a research network to meet many early career researchers doing amazing work, one topic which always gets lots of interest is the 'welfare of veterans and military families'. So we made it our monthly theme for March to tie in with the Forces in Mind Trust conference. So, why did we choose the 'welfare of veterans and military families' as our focus?
We've all heard of the shell shock suffered by soldiers in the First World War and in recent decades the phrase 'Post Traumatic Stress Disorder' (PTSD) has embedded itself in the public lexicon. There is now an acceptance that to be faced with the horrors of war may mean the ultimate sacrifice but for those who return there is an increasing recognition of the legacy of war. But, reflecting the breadth of new research, much of which is featured elsewhere in this newsletter, we wanted to open up a conversation inclusive of PTSD but which goes beyond it too, one that asks about the whole person and recognises the impacts on military partners and families too.
We have another jam-packed newsletter for you with 'in the news' coming from our very own DRN alumni, a very well attended Twitter Hour to report on, a focus on research clusters and centres, a bunch of fascinating reports and articles on our theme as well as an early career researcher spotlight. So, read on, enjoy and share with us anything you'd like to see in April's newsletter on the theme of 'maritime operations'.
Hannah West and Jemma Humphries
Co-Chairs of the Defence Research Network
See the full newsletter here: Welfare of Veterans and Military Families
February Newsletter: Defence Engagement
We're writing this as the Russian military launches its invasion of Ukraine, our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine in these dark hours and all those affected by this war. As we await news on the response of Western governments, somehow our monthly theme of 'defence engagement' or 'the means by which the UK uses defence assets and activities short of combat operations to achieve influence' seems more relevant than ever. Do check out our blogpost from Sorina Toltica reflecting on 'wars at a distance'.
It is our continued aim into 2022 to continue to collaborate through increased engagement between our network and the research, practice and policy communities and we are delighted to share with you some of those we have been connecting with later in the newsletter. We know that one of the challenges for early career researchers is getting a sense of the organisations and networks out there. So we have been working hard to reach out to diverse and useful organisation, to share with you what they do and how they could help with your research and work. We hope we've found some you are interested in following up with. We are very open to hearing from other networks and organisations - formal and informal - who would like to connect with us or work with us so do get in touch.
We are on the look out for new committee members to join our friendly bunch and, in particular, to help us with the newsletter and website. Check out the section below for more information about what we are looking for and how to get in touch.
We have been thrilled with how many of you have been in touch to share news with us of your books and publications and are delighted to include these all in the newsletter. We would love to hear from more of you so do get in touch by email or on Twitter to let us know what you are up to so we can share it in our next newsletter.
Hannah West and Jemma Humphries
Co-Chairs of the Defence Research Network
See the full newsletter here: Defence Engagement
January Newsletter: New Connections
We are delighted you have signed up to our newsletter! We're looking forward to getting to know you and supporting you any way we can this year. We set up our network back in 2016 because a few of us (based at institutions in the South West of England) felt a little isolated in our PhD studies on military-related topics. Fast forward 6 Years and now we have committee members in Australia, Brazil and Canada, Amazing! We have each benefitted so much from connecting with fellow early career researchers across such a broad range of fields, from which spring writing collaborations and friendships. Our strength remains the breadth of research interests and backgrounds that people bring to this group and we really look forward to meeting more of you this year, whether virtually or face to face. We thought we'd share a few of our plans for the network in the year ahead...
We spent the latter months of 2021 reaching out to different networks - formal and informal - to make new connections and talk about ways we can collaborate in the future. If you are involved in other networks, whether they are subject or region specific and you think we should be connected then please get in touch. We would love to showcase your network in our newsletter and have a chat about ways we can work together. We will be sharing more about our new connections in the months to come so keep your eyes out!
We have also been working hard to try and support early career researchers in making the step to present at major conferences by coordinating informal peer-to-peer workshops to prepare submissions and find fellow panelists. So do check out 'What we've been up to' for more information about what we are planning next.
I know you will all want to join us in thanking Emily Clifford for her outstanding editorship of our newsletter for the past two years - she has done a magnificent job and we hear such lovely feedback about each jam-packed edition. Emily is stepping back from this role to concentrate on her studies (good luck for the final push!) but is thankfully staying involved in the committee. For now we will be having a Guest Editor for each edition with our usual committee contributions to the various sections.
Thanks also to Sorina Toltica who has been part of our Twitter Team for the last two years and has been managing it single-handedly for the last few months. Sorina is also reaching the final stages of her PHD and is stepping back from the committee to concentrate on this but hopes to rejoin us on the other side - good luck! We are delighted to be welcoming some new committee members and welcoming back some old committee members who we look forward to introducing you to.
We hope you are all getting into the swing of 2022. We would love to hear from you so do get in touch by email or on Twitter to let us know what you are up to so we can share it in our next newsletter.
Hannah West and Jemma Humphries
Co-Chairs of the Defence Research Network
See the full newsletter here: New Connections
December Newsletter: Remembrance
I hadn't quite expected to be greeted by thousands of tiny pinks and red hearts as I strolled along London's Southbank earlier this month. The mundaneness of my day gave me a momentary respite from the headlines and, lost in a podcast, I had the strange feeling of escapism as I watched the sun bounce off the Thames. Contemplating the Londoners hurrying about their days around me, it felt, in some ways, like life moving on; there is Christmas shopping to be done, deadlines to be met, emails to send.
Yet, at the same time, it is undeniably, irreparably different. As the stretch of hearts so powerfully bring home, learning to live with the anxiety, uncertainty, and loss of the past two years, folding the memory into ourselves and attempting to carve some new semblance of 'normal', will alter how our journeys unfold into 2022 and beyond. I stayed a long time at the National COVID Memorial Wall, breathing in the aching pain of the past two years and trying to work out how I felt. Exhausted. Grieving. Overwhelmed. Tender. But, most importantly, loved. Each heart is a reminder that love has fuelled us through the darkest days of the pandemic, and will continue to do so as long as we don't lose sight of it.
2021, then, has been a year of remembrance. Collectively processing the horror of COVID whilst confronted by mutated threats, political upheaval, and intensifying racialised and gendered violence has left us questioning our place in the world. Who gets to be remembered? By whom? How are we remembered? And, what are we remembered for? The politics of memory determines not only how we know the past - such as the failure to honour Black and Asian first world war casualties or the commemoration of slave owners - but how we know ourselves and our futures. This is particularly pertinent as serving and ex-serving personnel reflect upon the aftermath of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Many see this year's Remembrance period as particularly difficult as they grapple with doubt over what their sacrifices were for and, importantly, what makes a British veteran today. We are incredibly lucky as a community to be involved in some excellent, timely work in this field and we look forward to supporting this throughout 2022.
As we enter this Christmas period, I urge you to be kind, to give yourself the space to rest, and be grateful for the love that you give and receive.
Have a very Merry Christmas,
The DRN Team
See the full newsletter here: Remembrance
November Newsletter: Women, Peace and Security
Last Sunday, the 31st October 2021, marked 21 years since the United Nations Security Council signed the landmark Resolution 1325, formalising what was a much longer fight to get the world to recognise the role of women in the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. Growing out of the transformative climate established by the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda set its sights on convincing international security actors to commit to a more equitable, feminist peace project. Resolution 1325 urged states to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all national and UN peace and security efforts, putting women's conflict experiences at the heart of security analyses. The Agenda thus built its foundations on three Ps: women's participation in conflict resolution; gender equality as a conflict prevention mechanism; and women's protection from violence during and after conflict.
In the 21 years since this momentous day, resolution 1325 and its ensuing family of resolutions - 1820 (2009); 1888 (2009); 1889 (2010); 1960 (2011); 2106 (2013); 2122 (2013); 2242 (2015), 2467 (2019), and 2493 (2019) - has, in many ways, successfully brought women into the 'elite world of masculine high politics'. It has given us the language to talk about women's roles within politics and the armed forces, carved a seat at the table for women in conflict resolution, and enabled conflict-related sexual violence to be seen as a serious international crime warranting a serious international response. However, the story of this Agenda has equally invited much scepticism; conflicts are not being prevented, women continue to be both subject to gendered violence and routinely excluded from peace processes, the practice of 'gender mainstreaming' has largely undermined many of its goals, and, ultimately, gender equality remains a utopian ideal. Is a seat at the table enough when the order of business has a distinctly patriarchal feel?
The 'coming of age' of Women, Peace, and Security - reached poignantly during the height of the coronavirus and its associated 'disaster patriarchy' fuelled 'war on women' - brought much reflection on the success of this Agenda in securing the future promised a quarter of a century earlier in Beijing. And now, the world has watched Afghanistan be taken over once again by the Taliban, a move which puts at grave risk many of the rights and freedoms which had initially justified international intervention in the country in 2001. What, then, does this mean for the next decade of the feminist peace project? How will the Women, Peace and Security Agenda take to 'adulthood', and will this involve critical reflection on the mistakes of its youth?
My scepticism, however, does not preclude optimism. I am buoyed by the brilliant minds working in this space, a fact that was made abundantly clear during our recent Twitter Hour. We are extremely keen to hear from more scholars researching along the intersection of gender and violence, and we are dreaming up panels and paper opportunities in order to keep these conversations alive and, importantly, critically conscious as we enter the WPS Agenda's 22nd year. Don't hesitate to get in contact if you would like to be involved in this work.
As always, we wish you a happy and healthy month!
See the full newsletter here: Women, Peace and Security
October Newsletter: Counterterrorism
In February of this year, Amnesty International and Open Society Foundation published their Human Rights Guide for Researching Racial and Religious Discrimination in Counter-Terrorism in Europe. The guide, aimed at those working in the human rights and anti-discrimination fields, encourages its readers to "speak back to counter-terrorism", challenging the normalisation and acceleration of excessive and misdirected counterterrorism programmes.
In the forward, Tendayi Achiume and Fionnuala Ní Aoláin explain that "countering terrorism, which remains undefined, has been on a growth trajectory in Europe with no end in sight" whilst, at the same time, "the costs of securitization and counter-terrorism have had identifiable and disparate impacts on certain historically and socially marginalized groups perceived as ‘threats’ to national security". The guide offers a toolkit for applying anti-discrimination law to the counter-terrorism field, with the goal of protecting those subject to unjustified and illegal treatment under the guise of combatting terrorism.
The 20th anniversary of 9/11 provides an important contextualization for this publication. Alongside paying tribute to the thousands who tragically died in these attacks, we must reflect upon the ways that responses to this event have negatively impacted racialised communities (and Terrorism Studies as a discipline) over the past two decades. As the world celebrates Black History Month throughout October, it would be disingenuous and downright dangerous to dismiss the continued violence and discrimination experienced by marginalised individuals and communities in the name of (inter)national security. In this vein, recognising how the language of terrorism was used by politicians and security services to stoke fear and discredit the Black Lives Matter movement once again reveals the racist political work (for more, see our paper spotlight below), and the violent and long-lasting repercussions, of (counter)terror discourse.
This left me questioning: what is, or what should be considered, (counter)terrorism? How can counterterrorism be used productively to promote safer, more peaceful societies? If 2020 was the year of (supposed) racial reckoning, then 2021 was the year those in power faced up to their compliance in misogynistic violence. Catalysed in the UK by the abduction, rape, and murder of Sarah Everard, we seem to be experiencing a 'turning point' in the way violence against women is understood and responded to. However, and despite the outpouring of support and evidence to justify the move, the UK government has refused to label misogynistic violence a hate crime (scroll for more on this). Activism and scholarship on 'extreme misogyny', 'incel terrorism', 'misogynist terrorism', 'gender terrorism', and 'everyday terrorism' gives us the language to call out this refusal as just another example of 'state failure'. How, then, can we reframe counterterrorism to protect us all?
September Newsletter: Back to School 📚
I can't be the only one thinking that September 2021 came around very quickly? As the new term starts for many of us next week, we at the DRN have been reflecting on the journey we have been on as a network over the past two years. Just before the coronavirus took its various shapes across the world, December 2019 saw the DRN relaunch with the help of the Defence Studies Department at King's College London. Welcoming around 50 people, we were excited and ambitious to connect with as many scholars in defence and security studies as possible. Soon after, this newsletter was born. For those of you who have been with us since the beginning, your dedication is much appreciated!
This past year and a half have been - to reluctantly use the term - unprecedented. Our dreams of events, conferences, and meet-ups were put on hold as we collectively went into survival mode. However, in this time of global trauma, we have been so very overwhelmed by how many of you have engaged with and grown the DRN. We have felt more like a community than ever as we have helped each other navigate such a strange and all-encompassing situation. We have reached global audiences and learnt from so many varied and valuable perspectives - with our Twitter following reaching 2,629 at the time of writing! All of this would not have been possible without a dedicated committee, which you will see below is constantly growing. As the academic year begins we hope to continue working on our accessibility and the range of voices we include in our work.
In celebration of newness and embracing opportunities, then, this edition is particularly full of exciting job postings, calls for submissions, events, and participation requests. Whatever area of defence and security you are working in, there is bound to be something for you to roll with as you get into the swing of the new term. Unsure of what challenge to take on? Why not send a submission to our inaugural essay competition?! To give incoming Masters students an opportunity to take part, we have extended the deadline to 17th October - click here or scroll down for more information.
As always, we wish you a happy and healthy month!
The DRN Team
In the last decade since Gareth Malone and the Military Wives Choir appeared on our screens in their 2011 two-part BBC documentary, the British public's attention to, and empathy for, military spouses have skyrocketed.
After winning Christmas number one with "Wherever You Are", the group has performed at the Royal Albert Hall, expanded to over 70 choirs, produced 6 albums, numerous books, and was recently the subject of a film starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan. Beginning in 2010 as the 'Military WAGS Choir' based out of Catterick Garrison, they have been catapulted to the level of national treasures thanks to their mix of personal stories of sacrifice and "patriotic feminine stoicism". As the faces of "new British patriotic popular music", these women operate in a sweet spot between showbusiness and commemoration.
However, this increased attention makes a critical eye even more imperative. Building from the legendary work of Cynthia Enloe, who crucially asked "where are the women?" in military studies, a growing body of critical scholars are foregrounding the experiences of military spouses to generate new insights into the operation and diffusion of military power. As Alice Cree (2020: 305) astutely explains:
"the choir is perhaps the most prominent example of gendered militarized logics, which insist on the masculine heroic soldier as the protector of the nation, and the feminine military wife as the embodiment of all that is protected."
Attention to the narratives and expectations enveloping military spouses is thus crucial in order to better understand not only the lived realities of military communities, but also wider articulations of military power in politics and society.
To do just this, throughout July we were lucky enough to partner with the Rethinking Military Spouses Research Group, a group of interdisciplinary early-career academics who officially established themselves in April of this year. The group is committed to enabling critical discussions on multiple aspects of military spouse research, such as unpacking the practical and emotional labour of military spouses, challenging homogenous framings of military spouses, and destabilising the relationship between military spouses, the military, and the state. It has been absolutely fascinating to share in the growing momentum of this group and we are extremely grateful for the insights they have already imparted on the DRN.
This June we discussed all things airborne - and for once I don't mean a certain infectious disease... We also celebrate Pride month!
The United States Space Force is slowly becoming more than just political satire, although you'd be forgiven if your mind still wandered to Steve Carrell and John Malcovich's excellent onscreen partnership, or even Chris Pratt's glow-up. Taking over from racoons and extra-terrestrial trees, the newest Guardians of the Galaxy are United States citizens who, over the last year, have completed an adapted military training programme designed to "lay the foundation of a service that is innovative and can go fast in order to stay ahead of a significant and growing threat".
Despite being the world's first and (so far) only independent space force, the United States are not alone in their ambitions. In April of this year, the United Kingdom founded Space Command, a joint command of the British Armed Forces organised under the Royal Air Force. They are joined by China, Russia, Iran, India, and France in developing integrated air and space capabilities, indicating a shared feeling that space superiority is "critical to the modern way of war".
However, the laws and norms governing military operations lack clear precedents in an interplanetary context. This deficiency has provoked some commentators to urge strategic restraint rather than superiority, arguing that diplomatic solutions be exercised before space warfare is deemed an inevitability. Yet, others suggest that preparing for this inevitability is all the more pressing considering the extent to which satellites are relied upon for both military and civilian infrastructure. These emerging debates are overlaid with the ethical implications of space exploration, presenting a set of interesting opportunities for interdisciplinary cooperation within security and defence studies.
In other news, last month played host to the annual Pride celebrations, with LGBTQI+ communities across the world marking the occasion both virtually and in person. The British Armed Forces occupy a complicated position in this regard; built upon very specific understandings of gender and sexuality, the institution has not generally been known for its tolerance of diversity and difference. For example, despite its legalisation in 1967, homosexuality remained a criminal offence in the British military until 2000. Soldiers suspected of being gay were court-martialed, jailed, subject to invasive medical examinations, stripped of their medals, and denied their pensions. These soldiers are now are calling for royal pardons and financial compensation for the negative impact of this treatment on their livelihood and private life. One such campaigner is Caroline Paige, who in 1999 became the first openly transgender officer in the British Armed Forces. However, Paige's story, which ultimately saw her keep her job in the Royal Air Force, demonstrates the positive attitudinal change occurring across the Forces in recent years. In this vein, For Queer and Country is a series of articles, videos, and conversations recorded for audio and radio broadcasts looking at the transformations of equality and diversity in the British Armed Forces. I encourage everyone to take a look, and wholeheartedly hope that these steps towards inclusivity will contribute to meaningful support for LGBTQI+ personnel both past and present.
Here comes the sun! To celebrate the (almost) return of Summer and our collective emergence from hibernation, this May we have been discussing the body and its significance in military and defence research.
As I compiled this newsletter, the week's seemingly unrelated news of the bodies discovered at a Roman burial site in Somersham, Cambridgeshire got me thinking about the weight we place on bodies as instruments of both terror and information. The excavated bodies, believed to have been decapitated as punishment for crimes, are being lauded for shedding light on the activity of the Roman military, allowing us to ask new questions about the history of torture, capital punishment, and military occupation.
Despite such revelations, military, defence, and security studies have, for a long while, neglected talking about the 'fleshy' aspects of soldiering and the military, preferring to focus their attentions on the 'high politics' of machinery, strategy, and international security. Yet, bodies and their associated actions, injuries, and sacrifices are never too far from view, equally obscured and highly visible thanks to the physicality of military service. We owe a lot to critical feminist work on embodiment and aesthetics for prompting conversations on the corporeal dimensions of military and militarism research. Crucially, this work highlights the role of both military and civilian bodies in the reproduction of militarised norms, placing these bodies at the heart of their understanding of war and its aftermath. As is made clear by the Somersham discovery and the great contributions to this newsletter, grappling with the humanising aspects of conflict enriches our knowledge not only of tactics and outcomes but also of the people living through them.
Additionally, it was Memorial Day this week for our US readership, a day dedicated to remembering and respecting generations of fallen soldiers. As we discuss a little bit later, the body is so central to the practice of commemoration that the identification (or misidentification) of the remains of World War II casualties has a profound impact on families' processes of grieving. In a similar vein, the unprecedented number of deaths from COVID-19 this year has left many without the opportunity to achieve the closure of goodbye. Images of military trucks transporting coffins in Italy became a haunting (and embodied) example of war seeping into the 'everyday' during the early stages of the pandemic.
What, then, can bodies teach us about war, culture, and society? What new insights could be revealed if we paid attention to how our bodies move through the world, both in life and death? Within the DRN's membership, there are a growing number of scholars asking and answering these pressing questions. The breadth of new research on embodiment and the military is clearly demonstrated by our Researcher Spotlight and the brilliant conversations had during our recent Twitter Hour. We are extremely grateful to everyone who has engaged with us over the month and taught us so much. And for those of you who are new to this area, read on! We hope that this newsletter piques your interest.
The official flower of the military child is the Dandelion. Why? The plant puts down roots almost anywhere, and it’s almost impossible to destroy. It’s an unpretentious plant, yet good looking. It’s a survivor in a broad range of climates. Military children bloom everywhere the winds carry them. They are hardy and upright. The roots are strong, cultivated deeply in the culture of the military, planted swiftly and surely. They’re ready to fly in the breezes that take them to new adventures, new lands, and new friends.
Experts say that military children are well-rounded, culturally aware, tolerant, and extremely resilient. Military children have learned from an early age that home is where their hearts are, that a good friend can be found in every corner of the world and in every color, and that education doesn’t just come from school. They live history. They learn that to survive means to adapt, that the door closes one chapter of their life opens up to a new and exciting adventure full of new friends and new experiences.
The study of warfighting, militaries, and soldiering has been practised for millennia. Humans have lamented the rules and ethics of war, its motivations, equipment, tactics, and outcomes since long before academia took notice, and arguably before the advent of writing itself. However, what rarely gets a mention in conventional war studies courses is the impact of soldiering on children and families. The literature on war has historically largely addressed children as a suffix to women, framing them as either innocently (and silently) protected or as collateral damage in wartime. The voices of children within military communities can subsequently get lost, even while appearing central to both jus ad bellum and jus in bello.
Conversely, a brilliant body of research spanning psychology, psychiatry, education, and increasingly social and political sciences puts these voices at the centre of their understanding of the military. This has opened up new avenues of inquiry into the sociological and psychological impacts of war and militarisation. Celebrating Month of the Military Child this April, a number of DRN members have been hard at work in this field, bringing us thought-provoking blogs and asking important questions about how military children learn, support one another, and understand their situation. We really want to spotlight this work and, particularly as a community of researchers that includes ex-service personnel, join the conversation around military families. You will find a couple of calls for participants below which involve exciting research into the experiences of military children relating to both education and mental health. I encourage anyone eligible to volunteer their time and share these calls with your networks.
I began this month's newsletter with the Dandelion Poem, and particularly this rendition by British charity Little Troopers, to reflect upon and celebrate the resilience of military children. Whatever your situation or background, resilience is a virtue that many of us have had to muster this year more than ever. I would say that we have much to learn from these dandelions, and I am excited to see how they touch academia in the years to come.
Virtual meetings, webinars, quizzes, 'drinks parties' and conferences have been sown so deeply into our social fabric that it feels disorientating to imagine sitting down in an auditorium of people to listen to a hotly-anticipated keynote. A stranger offers a handshake? Unthinkable. Attending a buffet? Someone pass me the sanitiser. Yet, our growing familiarity with e-socialising has meant that we have, in many respects, seen more of each in the past year than ever before. The social restrictions that we have grown accustomed to have drawn us paradoxically both further apart and closer together as we navigated the last anxious twelve months.
The question that comes now is, what's next? What will socialising, networking, and researching look like in a post-pandemic world? At the time of writing this, the debate on vaccine passports grows hotter, bristling with concerns for privacy and inequality, as planning for the first large-scale events resembles a war game. Can we learn from the innovations born from emergency and reassemble our 'normal' in a way that is kinder to both people and planet?
To honour the UK's (hopefully) imminent ease of COVID-19 restrictions, throughout March we have been discussing conferences. Whether you were a conference regular pre-pandemic, or you began your postgraduate journey during 2020 and thus have yet to experience your first conference, the chances are things are going to be very different as we transition to a hybrid of physical and virtual events. Despite the numerous technical glitches, virtual conferences have been an overwhelming success, presenting new opportunities to share knowledge widely, inclusively, and with respect for our planet. The worldwide travel restrictions and our newfound digital competencies have demonstrated the exciting potential for collaborations and discussions which pay attention to our carbon footprint while freeing up time for those with busy schedules or caring responsibilities.
As a community, we have benefitted greatly from the pivot to the virtual space, giving us the chance to connect across countries and time zones with like-minded researchers. This has been reflected in our many Twitter Hours, webinars, and virtual meet-ups. As a testament to this, our committee has grown to encompass multiple cities and even continents! I am excited and grateful to say that this month this newsletter has surpassed 300 subscribers, while our Twitter following has flown past 2,000, with engagement in six of the seven continents (we are yet to reach Antarctica!). Nonetheless, we are also aware that the beauties of in-person socialising have been sorely missed by many of us. We have fond memories of our re-launch back in December 2019 - little did we know that this would be our first and last in-person event for over a year! We are looking forward to meeting you all in person as soon - and as safely - as possible.
Following the now-infamous events of January 6th in the US Capitol, the violent aftereffects of Myanmar's February 1st coup, and the world's ongoing 'war' against the coronavirus, the early stages of 2021 have provided much food for thought in terms of the applicability, efficacy, and ethics of counterinsurgency.
There have been many parallels drawn between counterinsurgency doctrine and the current security crises; renowned counterinsurgency scholar David Kilcullen has called the events of both January 6th and the summer of 2020 in the United States an "incipient insurgency", the impacts of which were "war-gamed" in preparation for a contested election; The UN Security Council is being urged to act to "end the military's stranglehold over democracy in Myanmar", raising questions over the 'Responsibility to Protect' and what international intervention can, and should, be deemed appropriate; What's more, General Stanley McCrystal has likened his model of counterinsurgency to the body's response to infectious diseases, telling Forbes that a network-based strategy was the best way to fight "the coronavirus war", saying "If this is war, we have to rally the resources of everyone who has something, knows something, or can do something to beat the virus".
Yet, the issue of counterinsurgency has long been a contentious one. As Sorina writes in our blog this month - more of which you can read below - in practice, counterinsurgency campaigns have often resulted in a 'fragility storm' of widening inequalities and ineffective military strategies which serve to intensify violent extremism. The classic 'hearts and minds' approach has received criticism thanks to a narrow conception of political legitimacy rooted in colonial practices. Furthermore, as many of you noted in our recent Twitter Hour, an ambiguous distinction between counterinsurgency and counterterror leaves academics, politicians, and practitioners contesting over how to proceed. How, then, can we use the 'lessons learnt' from past and present counterinsurgency campaigns to respond to recent events in ways which are holistic, context-sensitive, and lead to lasting security for all? This is a question we will be following closely in the coming months as political, security, and health crises continue to coalesce across the world.
As you may have guessed, then, counterinsurgency is an important theme for the DRN, and we were delighted to co-host another brilliant Counterinsurgency Forum last month. Bringing together academics and practitioners to discuss our research and share ideas is at the very heart of what the DRN is about. On top of this, it has been great to see so many of you engaged with our theme throughout February on Twitter and Zoom. We look forward to carrying these discussions both virtually and, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, face to face as the DRN continues to grow.
This week saw the sad news of the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore, the British Army Veteran who raised almost £33 million pounds for the NHS in the run-up to his 100th birthday. Captain Tom became a symbol of hope and patriotism for much of the UK as we navigated the early stages of the pandemic, and remained integral to the British narrative throughout 2020 thanks to his message of hope and positivity: "tomorrow will be a good day."
As well as receiving a Knighthood, he topped the charts and broke worlds records with his recording of 'You'll Never Walk Alone', was given the Pride of Britain award, earned at least two honorary doctorates from Cranfield and Bradford, and became the captain of the FA's Lionhearts squad, among many other accolades.
The nation has mourned his death with the same spirit in which they celebrated his life. A moment of silence in Parliament was observed and claps erupted from doorsteps across the country to show their appreciation for the 'dignity and determination' with which he supported the nation through the last year. After the news of his death on the 2nd February, a petition to give him a state funeral has already received over 200,000 signatures. Prime Minister Boris Johnson seemingly signalled his support for a statue of the centenarian, while Health Secretary Matt Hancock said of the news:
"We should find a way to make sure we mark the memory of Captain Tom and thank him for the contribution he made to the NHS. [...] I will ensure that we mark his contribution properly and appropriately at the right moment. [...] I think everybody would welcome that... he touched the hearts of the nation and we should remember that."
With memory and memorialisation January's theme of the month, Captain Tom's passing reminds us that remembrance wears many faces. Questions of public versus private memory have been debated in reference to almost every war in history, and the COVID-19 struggle is no different. The political work that memorialisation can do was a major theme of our Twitter discussions this month, and the death of Captain Tom is an important contextualization of this. This was captured in the controversial (now deleted) comments by Reverend Jarel Robinson-Brown that the memorial 'National Clap' for was a display of the 'cult of White British Nationalism'.
There is no doubt that the memory of Captain Tom will live on in British history; the joy he brought to so many over the past year is a wonderful reflection of his generous and cheerful spirit. Nonetheless, at this time, we must ensure that our collective memory and resulting memorialisation is driven by the wishes of his family and loved ones. We at the DRN send our condolences to them. Rest In Peace Captain Tom.
Happy New Year! It's been quite a year, hasn't it?!
As I prepared for this New Year's newsletter I thought back to its 2020 counterpart and I saw a year that began and ended with equal parts struggle, survival, and solidarity. Although none of us could have imagined the enormity of COVID-19 back in January 2020, the bushfires fires which ripped through Australia were our first taste of crisis. Dramatically highlighting the effects of climate change and setting the scene for what became one of the warmest years on record, fires also raged in Serbia and California, while Indonesia, Kenya, and Uganda suffered destructive flooding.
In other news, US drone strikes, the assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, and the corresponding deterioration of international nuclear relations saw us hurtling towards WWIII. In this environment, you'd be forgiven for taking David Cameron's warnings at face value as the Brexit transition period formally began. On the other side of the pond, the Black Lives Matter movement pierced through the coronavirus news, invigorating international outrage and civil unrest in response to the killing of Black people by police. The summer also saw the start of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as the devastating explosion in Beirut which tore through the city and toppled the Lebanese government. The US election turned communities against one another, and information warfare impacted states and civilians alike.
And, in all this, who can forget COVID-19? While writing our newsletters in March, April, and May on this 'invisible war' and the 'new normal', not for a moment did I think that I would still be in lockdown 10 months later. Although there is undoubtedly more to say about the disasters of 2020 than this brief editorial can hold, as security and defence researchers we must focus on both war and its aftermath. Our jobs took on new meanings as we attempted to navigate the rhetoric of war which has threaded together much of this year. While the meanings of pain, war, and violence have mutated in unexpected ways, security has also meant many things this year...
It meant a safe space to live
It meant a protected environment
It meant racial justice
It meant stable employment
It meant an end to hate and bigotry
It meant a vaccine
At the same time, our heroes were redefined as...
While 2020 has taken so much from us - our loved ones, our jobs, our time, our ambitions, our freedom, our sanity, our security - I am eternally impressed by the strength and solidarity shown by so many. As governments across the world roll out their vaccines, the security community should train their eyes on these heroes to understand what peace could mean in 2021. The fireworks which lit up London this New Years shone the words 'hope' and 'together'. Despite this year of crises, these words clearly still hold enormous power.
Remembrance Day 2020 was a little different to previous years. With crowds prohibited and Royals masked, the scaled-back nature of this year's events seemed to reflect what has been an isolated year for many of us. Nonetheless, this did not make the day any less moving, with the pain of this year bringing a renewed sense of shared grief, but also solidarity and hope, to the country. To comply with national lockdown measures, this year's service was live streamed from the Cenotaph, with people all over the country taking part in remote and socially distanced Remembrance activities. We demonstrated our innate resourcefulness and will to connect across the country, for example the giant poppy mosaic filled with notes of thanks to military veterans. We also connected across lines of difference, with black poppies appearing more frequently as the nation attempts to confront systemic racism.
In a big way, then, technology has been a saving grace in this drive to (re)connect. Providing new ways to lived shared lives while geographically separate or shielding, we owe a lot to the power of virtual communication this year. The incredible impact of Sir Captain Tom Moore would not have been possible without the strength of social media, nor would families have been able to unite across counties, countries, and continents to celebrate Easter, Eid, and yesterday's Thanskgiving. With this month's theme of veterans and families health and wellbeing, recognising the significance of these connections is absolutely vital. It's also important to note the promising tech developments aimed at improving veteran's health and wellbeing, from the US's 'My Military OneSource' to 'HeadFIT' here in the UK.
What's more, November is 'arts in health' month, and we've been considering the role the arts and other creative activities can play in wellbeing for veterans. Below, we introduce the Defence Gardens Scheme Community Interest Company, the work of our lovely committee member Sally Coulthard. This initiative offers nature based therapy to service leavers and their families, drawing on the therapeutic benefits of gardening and the community building opportunities these gardens offer. Help for Heroes' 'Creative Force' Programme is built from the same principles, helping ex-service members to process and recover from the mental and physical ramifications of military service using art and other creative outlets.
If you are looking for a fright this Halloween, look no further than a MODREC application form. As I write this, I am two days away from submitting my ethics application, an extensive 16 page document for which I have laboriously trailed through file upon file of GDPR rules, simulated the risks for every possible scenario, and had more than a few sleepless nights. The prospect of receiving an unfavourable decision fills me with more dread than any potential monsters under the bed. COVID-19 has undoubtedly made this process even more of a minefield for PGR students, who are tasked with proving methodological rigour while entangled within a situation of which none of us have any control. How long is it until Christmas?
But, to give it its due, this process has done its job in making me reflect on the upmost importance of giving this tricky topic some attention. Particularly in the field of defence and security, questions of ethics are paramount to ensuring that our research and actions are safe and secure, proportionate and just. When we work in this space, we have a responsibility not just to our research participants, but also to the academic and policy communities we are contributing to, to conduct research which is ethically conscious.
The 'real' world is giving us ample reason to hold these ethical principles in high regard. While some of us want to meet Captain America (hello Chris Evans), others, it seems, are in the process of making him. Current developments in gene editing and artificial intelligence are indicative of a refreshed revolution of military affairs, one which provides both exciting opportunities for the future of military activity, and a whole new set of measures against which ethics panels must judge. These are areas that require as much scrutiny as they do innovation, and I know that many of you in our community are engaged in brilliant work tackling these important questions.
Every time September rolls around, I can't help but wonder where the summer went. Is it that time of year already? (Surely not); Have I achieved what I set out to over summer? (Don't be silly); Am I prepared to begin learning again? (What's learning?) - Getting ready for the new term is always a shock to the system.
Nonetheless, this year's 'back to school' season is a bigger shock than ever - and is unsurprisingly looking very different. We're either going into our eighth month (year?) of working from home or frantically trying to book study space online. And, if we do go to campus, will we see our family ever again? Fieldwork plans seem like a distant memory, while sleepless nights over class sizes and timetables are accompanied by the looming worry of being blamed for a public health crisis. I think it's fair to say that this is not exactly how any of us imagined navigating a research degree would be.
Unfortunately, the new school year also means that a few of our team are moving on and around. I am very sad to say that this will be the last newsletter I write to you all. I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has read and engaged with this platform over the past year, it has been an absolute pleasure to write about the wonderful things our community is doing, watch our readership grow, and hear your feedback on Twitter. Particularly in these strange and isolating times, knowing that we can connect as a collective has brought me great comfort - I hope that I have played a little part in bringing this community to you, too. Luckily, endings inevitably lead to new beginnings, and the DRN is looking for someone to take over where I have left off! We are also on the lookout for a Twitter Manager to manage our social media presence. Interested? Read below for more information on how to get involved.
"...women are very much combatants in this battle. This is a unique moment to examine frontline nurses as the foot-soldiers of this campaign and explore what it means for our understanding of women as combatants."
Who earns a place on the 'frontline' is a question that has been debated almost as consistently, and as contentiously, as the futility of war itself. Although it was 2018 before women were able to serve in all combat roles in the British Armed Forces, history has shown us that perseverance and a rebellious streak enticed women to the battlefield centuries earlier. The implicit masculinity of the soldier is questioned as far back as Boudica, through to Agnes Hotot, Christian 'Kit' Cavanagh, Hannah Snell and many many more. Infamous WW2 French Resistance fighter and "most decorated heroine of WWII" Nancy Wake once told an interviewer "I don’t see why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas."
That being said, as the character of war changes, the 'frontlines' are shifting too - seemingly ridding us of rigid ideas of soldiering. Gone are the days when women must conceal their femininity to serve their country; the British Army now directly appeals (albeit not without criticism) to a new type of recruit, one which embraces all genders, sexualities, ethnicities and faiths. Yet, will Britain's "modern military" be able to overcome deep-seated ideals of masculinity underpinning war and soldiering?
This July, we are exploring the ways war interacts with technology, we've got some interesting new online courses and funding opportunities for you, we're meeting the editors of our favourite journals, and we're celebrating an extraordinary female engineer.
Ever since COVID-19 turned the world upside down, there has been a rush to find innovative ways to cope with this strange new environment. Alongside the vaccine race, numerous ingenious, life-saving, and sometimes outright strange products have been hitting the market in an effort to outsmart 2020's biggest adversary. Many have likened this coronavirus-induced innovation to the technological advancements during the Second World War - everything from rocket technology to superglue came about as a result of wartime imaginations.This precedent has given Peter Beech, writing for the World Economic Forum, an optimistic "glimmer of light" as the world continues to battle both the virus and its related afflictions of fear and uncertainty.
Whether lockdown has you completing your bookshelf or struggling to make it past the first the page, we've got your reading covered this June...
We are asking you what you're reading, we're supporting Black Lives Matter in the British Army, we're looking forward to our second webinar, and we're evaluating the merits of science fiction to a military education.
"You are travelling essentially. Reading is a state of freedom - the freedom of the mind, the freedom of the imagination, and there is no better cure to feeling nailed to the spot than reading"
As we end our third month of lock down, is this the 'new normal'?
“We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day. Keep smiling through just like you always do, 'till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away...”
The words of Vera Lynn took on a new, and largely unexpected, significance in our VE Day celebrations this month, as we skipped on street parties in favour of more distant affairs. Many of us reminisced on days gone by (quite literally for this innovative street in Chester!), where hugs weren't taboo, beer gardens weren't off-limits, and we could party likes its 1945. Yet, it has been wonderful to see how many people across the country are adapting to the current climate, finding ways to connect and celebrate amidst what now seems to be our 'new normal'. VE Day is particularly important for us at the DRN, and we are extremely proud of all the service and ex-service members among us. We are committed to researching and supporting Armed Forces personnel both on and off the battlefield.
As the world around us changes, let the DRN newsletter be the one constant in your life...
As Germany tentatively reopened some of its shops and services earlier this week, Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the German public to remain disciplined regarding social distancing rules to avoid jeopardising the country's so far impressive resilience to COVID-19. Although she admitted that we are "still at the beginnig", Merkel reiterated that with nationwide cooperation it would be possible to emerge safely and sustainably on the other side of this crisis.
"The crisis we face from the coronavirus is on a scale of a major war...”
These were the words of Senator Bernie Sanders addressing a recent news conference, fiercely rebuking the leadership of President Trump amidst the global pandemic that is COVID-19. While Sanders predicts casualties on par with WWII, his rival Mr Biden furnishes his ‘Public Health Advisory Committee’ with former homeland security and counterterrorism advisors. At the same time, there are armed police locking down the streets of Europe, while in the UK we are gearing up for the potential launch of our own military response, code-named Operation Broadshare.
From Service to "Civvy Street" and Beyond, Making the Transition
Last month we discussed the launch of Veterans Work’s new report Moving On. The aim of this report was to examine the factors motivating veterans when making the transition from the military to the civilian job market. In so doing, Veteran’s Work hopes to positively impact transition support and recruitment, making businesses aware of both the skills and perspectives ex-service personnel can bring to their corporations. The report's central themes are questions of location, salary expectations, and experiences of finding a job, and its outcomes highlight that ‘quality of life’ concerns often find veterans away from big cities or less likely to commute. Veterans Work thus urges employers to offer flexible or remote working to tap into the ex-military talent pool.
“If it isn’t a national security issue, what is?"
Last month, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnball criticised current leader Scott Morrison's response to the deadly bushfires which have devastated the country, call for the immediate restructuring of emergency management to deal with this unprecedented "national security issue". Turnball was not alone in calling for such change. The New York Times labelled the crisis an 'Atomic Bomb,' while MP for the New South Wales Electorate of Eden-Monaro, Mike Kelly, called for national mobilisation in the form of a civil defence corps.
This December, we wanted to say thank you to everyone who attended our relaunch event, as well as introduce our new website, invite you to our January Twitter hour and let you know about some of the amazing defence-based projects our members are involved with.