26 Sep 2012: Sociology Seminar

Issued: Thu, 13 Sep 2012 17:42:00 BST

Identity Work as Material Practice: Men, Masculinities and the Private Military Contractor

Dr Paul Higate (School for Sociology, Politics and International Relations, University of Bristol)

4.00-5.30pm, Room 916, Adam Smith Building

In recent years, the rapid growth of the Private Military and Security sector into a multi-billion dollar industry has stimulated interest from political scientists, IR theorists, security studies and military studies scholars. Here, debates have touched on concerns of regulation, questions of domestic sovereignty and the moral and ethical dimensions of the commodification of security. Yet, despite discursive and state-level analyses by critical scholars of gender who claim that the industry can be seen as an exemplary moment of remasculinization, there remains little in the way of ethnographically informed, thick description of the actual practices of contractors on the ground.

Drawing on qualitative interviews from field research in Kabul and participant observation in the U.S and the UK, in this presentation I argue that one way in which to explain the insecurity created by some contractors resides in the modes of masculinity they adopt. Framing masculinity as a form of identity work, I consider tensions between hypermasculine identity work and operational effectiveness. In sum, and as a key element of a broader book project I ask the question: What makes these identities and their allied practices possible? This question sparks a line of enquiry that tracks back through the history of masculine subjectivities in the UK and U.S contexts as one way to explain how contractors both imagine and practice security on the ground.

All welcome.


The Sociology Seminar Series is supported by the MacFie Bequest, named after Professor Alec MacFie, Adam Smith Professor of Political Economy at the University from 1945 to 1958. 

Any enquiries about the seminar series can be addressed to: Andrew.Smith.2@glasgow.ac.uk