Defence Research Network

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Monthly Members' Newsletter

While the summer never truly joined us this year, the DRN newsletter is one thing that will never let you down...

For new friends, welcome! We are an interdisciplinary network of Masters, PhD and Early Career Researchers focused on defence, security and military topics in relation to policy, strategy, history, culture and society. We hope you find our network interesting, exciting, informative, and supportive.

For old friends, thanks for your continued involvement. We would be nothing without you! This July, we partnered up with the Rethinking Military Spouses Critical Research Group on the theme of military spouses, quizzing everything from perceptions of military spouses to their perspective on critical research. We've got some great news and updates from our members, and have some excellent opportunities to get you motivated for the coming term.

Scroll down to get up to date with the news, opinions, and events from our members...

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. Scroll down for much more on this area and how to get involved with their work. 

As always, we wish you a happy and healthy month!

The DRN Team 

In the News... 
Relocating Afghan Military Families 
As the deadline for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan draws closer, a group of former British military commanders have called on the government to allow more Afghans who worked for British forces to resettle in the UK. Although the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy has recently been expanded, the group have criticised the government for the number of former interpreters who have "unnecessarily and unreasonably been rejected". Accusations of using "loopholes" to reject Afghans contracted by the British forces have only served to strengthen these criticisms. 
UK Veterans Failed by the DWP
An investigation by the Daily Mirror reveals that ex-service members in the UK are being dramatically failed by the benefits system. Through interviews with veterans and military support charities, the Mirror claim that around 90% of veterans suffering from PTSD have had problems receiving Personal Independent Payments, many of whom are rejected thanks to a lack of awareness or sensitivity towards post-traumatic stress symptoms. They urged the DWP to fix this problem by improving how its assessors treat veterans with mental health problems. You can read more about their investigation here
What we've been up to... 
Researcher Spotlight: Rethinking Military Spouses 
With our theme of military spouses sparking a whole host of interesting discussions throughout July, who better to spotlight than the Rethinking Military Spouses Critical Research Group. Made up of early-career academics focused on developing and sharing novel theoretical, empirical, and methodological insights pertaining to non-serving military spouses, the group has built a wide network in its short three months of existence. Broadly their research interests include the critical analysis of:
  • Military spouses' lived experiences of, for example, deployments, communities, welfare provision, and divorce.
  • The ways military spouses are represented and understood across different social, cultural, and political contexts.
  • How military spouses' practical and emotional labour relates to military objectives.
  • The relationship between military spouses, the military, and the wider state.
They are interested in exploring questions including:
  • What it means to be critical and related implications.
  • Our encounters with the military community.
  • Rethinking homogenous framings of military spouses.
  • Creative opportunities to create impact and related implications.
We were lucky enough to partner with them for our Twitter Hour this month (scroll for more on this), and we are excited to be part of this growing area of critical inquiry. They are always looking for interested researchers to join their network. If you would like to join or find out more about the group, follow them on Twitter @criticalspouse, email them at , and/or check out their website.
Member Spotlight

To learn more about the wonderful researchers who make up the research group, check out their profiles here. Note our very own co-Chair Hannah making a very well-earned appearance! If you are interested in any of the work they are getting up to, you can get in touch with members directly by clicking their pictures on the website.

Bringing the Homefront to the Forefront: UK perspectives on critical research with military spouses

In last month's newsletter, we advertised a brilliant session on critical research with military spouses, organised by the Rethinking Military Spouses network. For those of you who missed it, never fear! Each of the eight speakers contributed research videos ahead of time outlining their projects, key questions, methodologies, key findings, and implications. In different ways, all speakers aimed to better understand spouses' and partners' lived experiences and entanglement with military life, processes, and/or power. 
You can find these videos and transcripts here.
The videos were followed by a live discussion event, chaired by Dr Nick Caddick, where speakers further considered issues relating to recruitment, methodologies, impact, and criticality. You can access a recording of this discussion here.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on the event and the work showcased. If you have any questions or comments, you can contact the network 
via email () or Twitter (@CriticalSpouse). If you would like to tweet about this content please use #criticalspouse 

Further Reading

If this has whet your appetite for more critical research on military spouses, here are a few of their most recent publications (you can view the whole list here): 

Cree, A. (2020) Sovereign Wives? An Emotional Politics of Precarity and Resistance in the UK's Military Wives Choir. International Political Sociology, 14(3): 304-322.

Cree, A. and Caddick, N. (2020) Unconquerable heroes: Invictus, redemption, and the cultural politics of narrative. Journal of War & Culture Studies, 13(3): 258-278.

Godier-McBard, L, R, Cable G, Wood A, Fossey M. (2021) Gender and barriers to mental healthcare in UK military veterans: a preliminary investigation. BMJ Military Health  

Long, E. (2021) Living Liminal Lives: Army partners' spatiotemporal experiences of deployment. Armed Forces and Society. OnlineFirst.

West, H. and Antrobus, S. (2021) ‘Deeply odd’: women veterans as critical feminist scholars, Critical Military Studies
Defender to Entrepreneur: Green Futures for Service Leavers

The Defence Garden Scheme (DGS), a social enterprise offering nature-based therapy to Armed Forces service leavers, veterans, and their families, is the brainchild of our brilliant committee member Sally Coulthard. 
Sally established the DGS after completing a Churchill Fellowship researching nature-based therapy for veterans with poor mental health. Her work has already expanded across the UK, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, and so far 2021 has seen them reach 52 clients. 

Now, Sally is partnering with fellow Churchill Fellowship awardee David Morgan to launch their Defender to Entrepreneur programme, aiming to help military veterans to seek self-employment in horticulture. David is the founder of Entrepreneurs Unlocked, another social enterprise offering a range of courses in employability and entrepreneurship to individuals with criminal histories and those serving custodial sentences.

The Defender to Entrepreneur programme is being funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Trust Fund’s Tackling Loneliness programme at the DGS garden in Manchester. They will support 48 veterans over the next two years, and it is planned for the Defender to Entrepreneur programme to be incorporated into future DGS programmes nationally in the future. 
Just serving to confirm the brilliance of all the work Sally and her team are doing, the DGS received a Silver Award from the MOD’s Employer Recognition Scheme last week. All of us at the DRN want to extend our congratulations to Sally and the DGS for this excellent award. It has been brilliant to watch Sally grow the DGS and look forward to celebrating further achievements with her in the future!
Congratulations Sally and David! Their latest venture has been published in the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust August Newsletter. Follow this link to give the newsletter a read and learn more about the Churchill Fellowship.
David with the team from the Curzon-Ashton Community Foundation and DB Nurseries at the DGS garden in Manchester.
DRN Essay Competition 2021 • Future Threats & Challenges: Is the World Ready? 
Don't forget:  we have launched our first essay competition!
We are pleased to invite all Masters students and recent graduates in International Relations, History and related fields to submit an essay for our inaugural essay competition. The essays should explore the future of global security and look to answer the following question in an innovative, creative and critical way:
 Future Threats and Challenges: Is the World Ready?         
The competition is a chance for you to share your thoughts in a new way, not restricted by academic standards. By participating you will get useful experience and can give valuable visibility to your research. 
The submission will be peer-reviewed by the DRN committee, and three prizes will be awarded (in Amazon vouchers). The first prize of £50 will be awarded to the Best Essay'. Two other prizes of £25 each will be awarded to The Most Creative Essay’ and the essay presenting ‘The Best Case-Study’. The winners will also receive recognition on the DRN’s social media platforms.
The essays must be written in English and should not exceed 2,000 words (excluding references and bibliography). You are free to use any referencing style as long as its use is consistent. To keep hold of this information, download our flyer.

Please send your essays to and include ‘DRN 2021 Essay Competition’ in your subject line.

The deadline for submission is 17th September 2021.

Good luck! 

For any queries about the competition please contact the DRN via email ( or reach out to us on our social media platforms

Climate, Conflict, and Demography Conference

14th September 2021, 1.30pm - 6pm BST

Ahead of the COP-26 Climate Conference to be held in Glasgow in November, Africa Confidential, the International Crisis Group, and the Royal African Society are jointly hosting a virtual conference to discuss the impact of climatic and demographic change on Africa. 

Changes in climate and demography in Africa create growing pressure on natural and human resources and increase the risk that political, economic, and social tensions and disagreements turn violent. Conflict often exacerbates the problems and hinders mitigating action. Neither issue is susceptible to a quick or easy solution, so long-term strategies to reduce the risks are increasingly necessary and urgent. 
The conference will address these policy dilemmas and look at actions that governments and the international community should take. 

Besides top-level keynote speakers, the conference will include expert panels focussing on the three main issues: the economic consequences of climate and demographic change, the security implications, and the international dimension.

The aim is to draw up key messages and recommendations both to pass on to COP-26 and to use for follow-up action with African governments and their international partners.

For more information and to register, click here. This event will be live-streamed via Zoom and Facebook. The Zoom link will be sent out to all those registered. 

RAF Museum Conference: New Thinking in Air Power

16 September - 17 September 2021

Tickets are now available for Royal Air Force Museum’s ‘New Thinking in Air Power’ conference on 16th and 17th September 2021. Held in person at the Royal Air Force Museum, London, the conference will bring together academics and scholars to present Air Power research that challenges the accepted historical consensus.

The conference will feature a keynote address from Professor John Ferris entitled “Revolutions in Airpower, 1903-2021: An Anatomy” and a Roundtable session chaired by Professor David Edgerton.

The conference represents an important moment in advancing historical knowledge, with insights from Air Power scholars in all corners of the world. An exciting line-up of speakers will assess the current state of Air Power historiography and the future direction of Air Power thinking. The conference panels will cover everything from the First World War to digital research methods, from Air Power and the Nuclear Paradigm to the motivations of individuals and Air Forces. 

For more information and to register, follow this link.
Defence and Security Doctoral Symposium
9th November 2021, 10am - 4pm GMT 

Hosted by Cranfield University, the Defence and Security Doctoral Symposium provides research students and early career researchers in defence and security with an opportunity to present their work to a sector-wide audience. It covers both technological and social science research. The event also includes an exhibition space for industry and other employers of defence and security researchers. 

They are seeking contributions in four areas:

  • Paper Presentations (20 mins plus 10 mins for questions)
  • 3MT (3 Minute Thesis) Competition (1 Powerpoint slide)
  • Poster Competition (1 Image and supporting 1 minute Video Clip)
  • Digital Image Competition (1 Image and 100-150 Words)

To contribute a presentation or 3MT you need to be in your second year and onwards if a full-time student or fourth year and onwards if a part-time student. The poster and digital image competitions are also open to Early Career Researchers and all research students who are at least halfway through their degree.

To take part, complete and submit a registration form indicating which competition you wish to enter. Then email the title of your submission and abstract to by midnight on Thursday 26th August 2021. You will be notified by Tuesday 28th September 2021. Paper/3MT/Poster/Digital Image and accompanying presentational material to be submitted by Monday 18th October 2021. To find out more, check out their webpage

As always, keep an eye on our Twitter for new events and opportunities posted/retweeted every day!

Planning a future event?
If you are planning a defence-related event and you would like to reach an audience of like-minded researchers, we'd love to come along! Drop us an email and we can include it in our next newsletter.
If you are interested in any of our events but don't want to go alone, or simply want to expand your network, please reach out on Twitter or drop us an email and we can connect you with fellow DRN members who may be planning to attend.

If you would like to advertise any upcoming opportunities, please let us know via email.
Call for Papers: Cyber Security Seminar

The European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative's European Cybersecurity Seminar provides cybersecurity researchers and practitioners with a platform to present and get feedback on research projects and papers.

They hold monthly hour-long seminar meetings where participants can present research to the community. To ensure high-quality feedback, for each presentation they will identify and assign an expert discussant who will provide detailed comments, before opening up the discussion to all participants.

Chaired by Lennart Maschmeyer (ETH Zurich) and Lilly Pijnenburg Muller (King’s College London), the seminar has three main goals. First, it promotes cutting-edge research and interdisciplinary dialogue. Second, it aims to foster a community of trust among Europe’s cybersecurity experts. Third, it aspires to support junior scholars who may lack local networks providing guidance since cybersecurity remains an emerging field of research. 

The organisers are looking for papers and discussants for forthcoming seminars. Does this sound up your street? Email your title and abstract (max. 250 words) to You can keep up to date with the schedule and sign up details here

Call for Papers: Sandhurst Trends in International Conflict Series 
Practicing/Employing/Working/Doing/Making Security: the Women, Peace and Security agenda in Military Operations

3rd March 2022
Abstract deadline: 21st September 2021
Hosted by the Department of Defence and International Affairs at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the latest iteration of the Sandhurst Trends in International Conflict series will focus on the integration of the WPS agenda in military operations. 

The symposium aims to generate a conversation between academics and practitioners to better understand the contemporary challenges and obligations militaries have towards: protecting civilians; increasing women’s role in peacekeeping and peacemaking; preventing the six grave violations against children; stopping modern slavery and human trafficking.

They are inviting paper presentations from scholars and practitioners which address the challenges and opportunities of integrating human security and the WPS agenda into strategic and defence policy. Key questions to be explored might include:
  • The renewed relevance of WPS in 2022 and developments and innovations in worldwide National Action Plans.
  • How best to prevent conflict-related sexual violence?
  • Can WPS adapt in light of changes in the conduct of warfare, including the deliberate targeting of women and children and the use of human shields in urban operations?
  • What are the best cases of successful integration of WPS into strategic and defence policies and how can these be shared globally?
  • How can theory best inform practitioners preparation and planning on operations, and how can practitioners experiences be included in theory?
  • What have been the major shortcomings of militaries globally in increasing women’s participation and what can be done to address them?
  • The challenges and best practices for protecting children in armed conflict from the 6 grave crimes, including the demobilisation and reintegration of child soldiers. 
  • What role can and should militaries have in stopping human trafficking and supporting domestic police forces?
  • How can human security and WPS address other vulnerable groups such as LGBTQI+, undocumented, and displaced communities?
  • How can professional military education and trainers adapt to address the importance of gender mainstreaming and the human terrain in contemporary conflict? 
If you wish to submit a paper, the deadline to submit an outline and abstract is the 21st September 2021. All submissions and questions should go to To read more, follow this link.
Call for Papers: The Journal of Aeronautical History
The Journal of Aeronautical History is looking for papers that speak to diverse and non-technical areas of aeronautical history, from scholars at all stages of their careers.
As an internationally recognized, free-to-access, web-based, peer-reviewed publication of the Royal Aeronautical Society, the JAH covers all aspects of aerospace history and the development of aircraft and aeronautical engineering. The editors are particularly interested in hearing from PGRs, ECRs, and scholars researching non-technical aspects of aerospace history, whether that be the evolution of the science and engineering of flight, biographies of notable individuals, and/or civil and military organizational and operational histories. For more information visit their website, or e-mail , or Twitter @Cobraball3.
Call for Contributors: Defence-In-Depth
The Defence-In-Depth blog is run by Kings College London and has recently featured a number of blogs from DRN members. Their content is well suited to the breadth of our network and they are keen to hear from you with contributions from a wide range of subject areas. To submit a piece or discuss your ideas, contact the editor at
Supporting our Community...
Call for Participants: Keele University Research into the Experience of Veterans in the Transition to Civilian Life

Every year, 15,000 people leave Her Majesty’s Armed Forces to become civilians. By far the majority make this transition successfully and establish themselves in a civilian career. However, many people find the process difficult at some stage. Some find it extremely challenging.
The purpose of this research is to map the transition journey and understand what people find difficult, what people find easy, and why. The research is being conducted by Fergus Smith, a former officer in 3PARA and the author of three novels covering the military operations from Northern Ireland to Kosovo to Afghanistan. The research is part of a PhD programme at Keele University and ethical approval has been given.  

To take part in this research you should have served in the army for at least 3 years and got out between 2005 and 2020. There are two parts to the research. The first is an online survey that will take between 10 and 30 minutes to complete depending on how detailed you make your answers. The second is an in-depth interview to understand how you managed the transition.

If you would like to help Fergus by taking the online survey, follow this link. You may find it easiest to do this on a laptop or a computer rather than a tablet or a phone and apple products do not seem to find the form easy. 

If you are willing to be considered for an interview, email Fergus Smith on 
Call for Participants: Working Lives of Women Veterans

Doctoral researcher Andreana Glendinning is looking for participants for her research project into the working lives of women veterans. Based at the Institute of Employment Research at the University of Warwick, Andreana is pursuing a PhD on the longer-term working lives of UK Armed Forces Women Veterans. As a veteran of the Royal Navy, Andreana is hoping to speak to women who have served in the Royal Navy, Army, or Royal Air Force about their experiences transitioning from military to civilian life and their work-life experiences since leaving the UK Armed Forces. She is also interested in hearing from those who have not entered paid work on leaving the Service. 

Her research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. If you would like to learn more and/or take part in this project, check out her
information sheet and get in contact with her.
Fundraising for PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide  
At the end of this year the brilliant Gav Topley, a former co-chair of the DRN, is tackling Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for PAPYRUS, the national Charity for the Prevention of Young Suicide.  

Suicide is the biggest killer of young people under the age of 35 in the UK, in 2018 over 1800 young people took their own lives. PAPYRUS provides confidential support and advice to young people struggling with thoughts of suicide, and anyone worried about a young person through their helpline, HOPELINEUK. We'd love it if you would donate to Gav's challenge here, and you can read about PAPYRUS' good work here. 
#DefResChat: Military Spouses
For this month’s  #TwitterHour we discussed our July theme of Military Spouses. We are honoured to be co-hosting this month’s Twitter Hour with the Rethinking Military Spouse Critical Research Group @CriticalSpouse

1. Tell us about your research on military spouses and what methodology you are using?
  • I am researching the psychological impact of mesothelioma in the UK military context from the carer's perspective. The majority of my interview participants (for an IPA study) are spouses of veterans.
  • My work explores welfare provided to spouses. Previously looked at provision around deployment periods (particularly post-deployment) but now more interested in the normative power (e.g. militarism and neoliberalism) that operates around welfare provision #DefResChat 
  • I use qualitative methods and have interviewed army partners, military-organised welfare providers, members of military charities, and wider non-military charities. I am starting to focus more attention on analysis of welfare publications and political rhetoric.
  • I'm working with the super @AliceCree and @workietickettc exploring conflict and intimacy with military partners and ex-partners through online participatory theatre workshops. #DefResChat
  • I am not doing any formal research as I am not an academic. I am a #militaryspouse & had my exhibition #NotJustaWife which was contemporary documentation of our lives.  #DefResChat 
  • My work (alongside @hannah_r_west) uses participatory theatre with military partners to explore some of the ways that military conflict plays out in intimate spaces of the home (among other things!) #DefResChat 
  • I research Australian military spouses and how they use social media to manage their lives at the intersection of the Defence and civilian worlds, using a qualitative social media ethnographic approach #DefResChat
2. What are the challenges of researching the military spouse?
  • We have found it particularly challenging to access minority groups, not helped by recruiting in a pandemic. #DefResChat #criticalspouse
  • There are many challenges. Mil spouses are a relatively small pop. Tricky to access - helped if you have connections with the mil community, or gain access by advertising through military charities or welfare providers. Snowballing techniques are highly useful #DefResChat 
  • We are very wary of surveys & research - what is the end use? Will it be of benefit in the end? Will it help us as a community? Sometimes it feels as if we are being scrutinised & it is really useful to understand the ‘why’ of the research. 
  • Mistrust and experience of not being listened to can make them reluctant to engage, or very easily marginalised by the use of language or dismissive attitudes. In the veteran community, some spouses may not even see themselves as part of the community. 
  • Completely agree, I think there is quite a difference between regular and reserve military spouses in their experience and sense of belonging to a community #DefResChat 
  • For me there were none. As a #militaryspouse I have felt extremely supported by the community to which I belong. #DefResChat #NotJustaWife @CriticalSpouse
3. How have representations of the military spouse changed over time and what have been the biggest historical and contemporary influences on this?
  • One of the difficulties is when the representations clash with each other. Eg narratives around ‘home fires’ and ‘caregivers’ (esp of veterans), ‘sacrifice and support’ can make it difficult to promote other much needed narratives such as workforce talent (or create barriers). 
  • Movement in the spouse employment space, acknowledging spouses have their own career aspirations and ability to make contributions outside of the home #DefResChat 
  • Partly economic (not viable for one income household) but also spouses not accepting always having to put their own goals last. 
  • Don't get me started! Historical paintings: the women doing stereotypical chores when their diaries tell us they were loading rifles, treating the wounded on the battlefield etc Have they changed? not much! 
  • Coming from a military family, I feel military wives have become more visible in recent years - perhaps a result of Iraq & Afghanistan, and things like the military wives choir. #DefResChat 
  • Looking at ancient history is really interesting for this: archetypes from Homer's Iliad like Andromache and Penelope (and also Helen, for different reasons!) from have been so influential. But there are also many ancient warrior queens who took command of armies.
4. How do you understand the relationship between military spouses and the military institution and what are the common misconceptions?
  • There can be a misconception of experience: spouses experience of a military institution can be completely different to their partners, and isn’t always seen as valuable. 
  • That's a great point and I think really holds for the military partners we have been working with #DefResChat #criticalspouse
  • I think it would be interesting to explore spouse’s criticality, agency, and reflexivity about their own positionality with the military.
Keep your eyes peeled on our website for the next #DefResChat, and don't forget to check for more info on Twitter and our website. 

You can also find all our previous #DefResChats on the Archive section of our
website. Make sure to tag @DefenceResNet and hashtag #DefResChat to join the conversation.
Find Out More
What we're reading...
Blog Spotlight
Considering Criticalities: Reflections from academics interested in military spouses and partners

By way of an In Conversation piece this month, and continuing with July's theme of military spouses, we are re-posting this brilliant reflection piece from members of the Rethinking Military Spouses Critical Research Group. In it, they explore their relationship to critical military studies and military spouses research in particular, charting how they came to the sub-discipline and the challenges they have faced along the way. Below, I have provided an extract of each member's reflection. You can view the whole thing on their website here.

Dr Lauren Godier-McBard: Criticality is something that I have considered a lot recently and this has been the subject of several discussions with colleagues in our research institute. I don’t pretend to be an expert in critical military research, my work is very much focused on understanding and promoting the health and well-being of the military and veteran community, particularly in regard to women. However, I have found that this requires a level of criticality when examining the military institution, and the impact it has on the well-being of these communities.

Despite this, I have found it difficult to position myself in regard to criticality in the work that I do. I think for me, the main barrier to this has been balancing the needs of those funding or commissioning research, and the need to exercise a level of criticality in conducting research in a way that might be uncomfortable for the funders, or organisations being studied. This is made more complex still by two significant academic pressures: 1) Funding, and 2) Impact.

Read the rest of Emma' thoughts on the challenges of working critically here.

Hannah West: Through my research with servicewomen and military partners, I have tentatively explored and gradually become more confident in my critical feminist intervention but it is something I have had to grapple with at a personal level, given my background. I married a submariner but I have never really identified as a military partner, in part because our wedding was my husband’s last day in uniform, although it wasn’t mine. I still think of myself as ex-military before being a military partner.

So, I was nervous to meet the military partners participating in our research project because I recalled the, sometimes, uneasy relationship between servicewomen and military wives especially pre-deployment when I would be due to spend months at sea working with their husbands. Being both an insider as a fellow military partner but an outsider as ex-military and a critical scholar, I speak a lexicon that enables access not afforded to all but also brings a set of assumptions about myself, based on my former service, to be navigated. This positionality and previous research on servicewomen as combatants, has encouraged me to question assumptions of homogeneity about military partners and the extent of their militarisation.

Read more about Hannah's experience interviewing military partners here.

Dr Alice Cree: To me, Critical Military Studies (CMS) is about exploring the weird, messy, contradictory, illogical, insidious ways in which military power functions and is practiced. Research in CMS should be concerned with making military power strange and not making sense of it; as Victoria Basham and Sarah Bulmer (2017) tell us, “military power often makes little sense” (p.62, emphasis in original).

In my work I’m interested in thinking through this ‘senselessness’ by looking at particular kinds of (gendered) figures that both perform military power and resist it – and this includes military spouses. In that respect, I would very much say I am a ‘critical’ researcher. But, I also feel that participatory and creative approaches with military communities have a lot of value for critical research. I have never really identified with the idea that critical military scholarship can only happen at a distance; to take that view that would be to presuppose that those people who make up military institutions are not critical subjects with the capacity for agency. As part of the ‘Conflict, Intimacy and Military Wives’ project, we have been using participatory theatre with military partners to explore some of the entanglements of military participation and conflict with home life and personal relationships.

Hear more about Alice's participatory work with military partners and the questions it raises for critical research here.

Dr Emma Long: My becoming a critical researcher has been an academic and personal journey. When I embarked upon my PhD – exploring the experiences of non-serving partners when their serving partner returns from combat-related deployment – I had expected to identify gaps in support provided by the military which would lead to me offering a host of recommendations for improvement.

My interest was driven by my experiences of my serving parent’s regular deployments and the adjustments we made as a family to settle into our new, yet temporary, normal. I’m grateful that our reintegrations were fairly unproblematic, and I wanted to hear from others in order to develop a fuller picture of what the reintegration experiences were for UK military families.

When it came to analysing my interview data, I found that simply outlining the themes that arose, and developing recommendations based upon these, was not doing the research justice. I discovered Critical Military Studies in the final year of my PhD and found that this way of thinking about military power and partners’ entanglement with it really resonated with my data. It gave my research a language I didn’t know it needed! At a similar time, my long-term partner joined the Royal Navy and I found that through these encounters, I also started to personally identify with many of the accounts written by critical scholars. This encouraged me to look at my data afresh and I wrote my thesis, leaning much more into critical discussion than I would have ever imagined at the outset.

Hear about Emma's post-PhD journey and her shifting feelings towards policy recommendations here.

Conclusions: These brief reflections from four of our research group members show some of the various ways in which criticality is experienced and understood by us whilst conducting research on and with military spouses and partners. Through further engagement with each other and our other group members, we will continue to reflect on the implications that criticality has upon our work – not least those implications relating to research design, methodological approaches, funding opportunities, and pursuing meaningful impact. If you are interested in hearing more please do not hesitate to contact us at

We also recommend the following articles:

Basham V., Belkin A. & Gifkins J. (2015) What is Critical Military Studies? Critical Military Studies, DOI: 10.1080/23337486.2015.1006879

Basham V. & Bulmer S. (2017) Critical Military Studies as Method: An Approach to Studying Gender and the Military. In R. Woodward & C. Duncanson (eds). Palgrave International Handbook of Gender and the Military, Palgrave Macmillan: pp. 59-72.

West H. & Antrobus S. (2021) ‘Deeply odd’: women veterans as critical feminist scholars. Critical Military Studies, DOI: 10.1080/23337486.2021.1907020

Thanks so much to the Rethinking Military Spouses Critical Research Group for their honest and thought-provoking insights. Make sure to check out the full blog here, and take time to peruse their whole website while you're at it! If you are interested in joining them or hearing more about their upcoming events, contact 

Report: Protecting Those Who Protect Us: Women in the Armed Forces from Recruitment to Civilian Life
The Defence Sub-Committee on Women in the Armed Forces has recently published a report on the quality of protection and support afforded to female personnel. 

The inquiry is one of the most important in the Committee’s history, with the Sub-Committee receiving an almost unprecedented level of engagement. Around one in ten female personnel currently serving in the Regulars contributed to the inquiry. It is also the first of its kind, with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) lifting the usual restrictions that prevent service personnel from contributing to inquiries.

The report tackles the extensive bullying, harassment, discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence experienced by female personnel, noting that not enough was being done to both protect servicewomen and bring perpetrators to justice. Particularly, the Complaints system was flagged as "extremely poor". Additionally, the report details the numerous daily challenges - such as ill-fitting uniforms and protective equipment - which stand in the way of servicewomen achieving their full potential. Furthermore, the report suggests that the MoD must do more in helping female veterans transition out of service life.

To read the full report, click here. 

Further Reading
Following nicely from this report, DRN member and serving platoon Sergeant Phil Mitten has written a blog piece for the Wavell Room reflecting upon his experience of internalised and institutionalised misogyny in the Armed Forces, arguing that rethinking their approach to gender would improve the military's understanding of leadership. Read the piece here.
New Books
Armed non-state actors and the politics of recognition
Anna Geis, Maéva Clément and Hanna Pfeifer

This recently published edited book will be of interest to anyone studying asymmetric conflicts. It addresses the issue of recognition of armed non-state actors. The book explores the topic by looking at it through different stages of conflict escalation, such as during armed conflicts, in conflict stalemates or mediation and peace processes. It uses various examples to illustrate the issue, including Al-Shabaab, IS, PKK or Provisional IRA.
You can buy a copy 
Counter-radicalisation policy and the securing of British identity: The politics of Prevent
Thomas Martin
As the title suggests, this book focuses on ‘Prevent’, Britain's counter-radicalisation strategy. The book draws on interviews with those involved in the strategy’s development, it conceptualises the strategy and outlines its history. The book deals with concepts and practices such as community cohesion, problem institutions or identifying individuals who are vulnerable to radicalisation.
You can buy a copy 
Pause for thought...

On Monday Lawmakers in Connecticut, USA, passed a law that would speed up job certification for individuals relocating across state lines. This will make a huge difference to military spouses, who are more likely to face unemployment than their civilian counterparts thanks to the short term and geographically varied nature of their partner's postings. While employment barriers exceed licences and certifications, the news has been received warmly.

Others are turning to entrepreneurship, like Flossie Hall, whose Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs offers military spouse entrepreneurs the tools and resources to launch and grow their businesses. Articles such as this one highlight the need for flexible working among military communities, with spouses often being forced to adapt to their environments with little support. Only this month was a bill introduced to the US House of Representatives which would create a pilot program for military spouse internships and fellowships. At the same time, a targeted training scheme of personalised career support for spouses and partners of Armed Forces personnel was launched at the end of 2020 in the UK. 

Compared with the attention paid to veterans' transitions to civilian life, are we doing enough to support military spouses into employment? What are the barriers to this support, and how can we overcome them?

What do you think? Let us know on Twitter!

Thank you so much for joining our network.

Have you recently won an award, had your paper published, launched a book or are you organising an event? We want to hear from you! We are always looking for new content for our newsletter and would love to showcase the great work of our members.

For queries, more information, or just to tell us about yourself, don't hesitate to contact us on Twitter @DefenceResNet or at 

The DRN team 
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