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Militarisation and everyday life

Military migrants
This project explores the interface between military institutions and civil society in the domestic sphere, looking at some of the spatial, social, cultural and economic impacts of Britain’s post 2001-wars.
October 2012 - September 2013

The process known as ‘militarisation’ is in urgent need of re-thinking.

As a result of developments such as the Military Covenant campaign, launched in 2007, successive governments have been forced to pay greater attention to the conditions under which service personnel work and the rewards that might be due for those performing military service. There has been a huge increase in media representations of soldiers in training or at work, but very little academic analysis of the effects of maintaining a fully-manned armed force at home.

While it is accepted that national armed forces play a significant role in representing countries in the global arena their role in mediating questions of belonging, citizenship and social cohesion in domestic spheres is seldom acknowledged, in the UK at least. In some periods the question of who joins the army is relatively dormant as a public concern. But studied over time, military recruitment strategies can be seen to play an important role in shaping the politics of citizenship and the definition of the political community.

This is because, at certain moments, the act of volunteering to be a soldier is thought to reach into the heart of what it means to be a citizen and to ‘serve’ the country. This commitment becomes especially prominent when the country is at war. The figure of the soldier acquires a very different profile when the numbers killed in battle starts to rise and the media spotlight turns towards their grieving families, before settling on the politicians who sent them there.

The deployment of thousands of soldiers in the security apparatus for the London Olympics, the plan announced by New Labour to set up ‘service schools’ as  way to integrate military personnel into secondary education – these are just two examples of the discursive and material practices of militarism, defined as ‘an extension of military influence to civilian spheres, including economic and socio-political life’ (Thee, 1980, 15, quoted in Woodward, 2004). These and other developments demand a critical awareness and engagement with the consequences of living in a country that is permanently engaged in combat operations.

This research project builds on a four-year study of migrant soldiers in Britain’s postcolonial army. Migrant Soldiers: Fighting for YOUR country explores the phenomenon of Britain's multi-national army, a topic that has passed virtually unnoticed in public debates about immigration, citizenship, multiculturalism, national identity and war. (See more details here).

Future initiatives include an investigation of how defence-related organisations are enmeshed within local and regional networks and geographies. This will involve a case study of Aldershot, Hampshire, an historic garrison town and the designated ‘home’ of the British Army.

The town is a rich site for investigation because the Ministry of Defence has allocated funds to create a flagship military centre that will provide economic and cultural resources to the civilian community. In addition to substantial redevelopment, the borough (which includes Farnborough) is a centre for the UK Gurkha community and Nepalis comprise 10% of the local population. This level of diversity has repercussions for community relations as well as relations between civil and military, demanding an effective response from local government and other non-military agencies.

Please join the project on Facebook and visit Vron Ware's dedicated website.

Vron recently participated to BBC 4 Thinking Allowed and to OU Plateform.

 

 

Learn more about the research programme: Enactments