'Dramatising the home front: The lively politics of gendered militarism'

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Geography Politics and Sociology

Abstract

My primary objective for this fellowship is to develop publications in high impact peer reviewed journals, which will be invaluable for my career development. These publications will be based on my doctoral research, an abstract for which can be found below:
The figure of the military 'hero' is a powerful one in contemporary British politics. In what John Kelly (2012) refers to as the 'current hero-fication strategy', the hero soldier is made visible in even the most intimate and banal corners of everyday life. One simply has to look to the huge public support for the military charity Help for Heroes, the amputee Iraq war veteran on Dancing With the Stars, or disabled servicemen and women competing for their countries in the Invictus Games, to see how prominent the military hero has become in popular culture and the 'everyday'. But it is not an apolitical act to call someone a hero. Indeed, to name someone a hero simply by virtue of them being in the armed forces points to a much broader politics of the sovereign state, a politics which lies at the very heart of my doctoral research. My work therefore addresses three important questions: Who is this military hero? What does he represent? And, what are the conditions through which we come to recognise him? Using four diverse 'sites' to explore these questions, specifically the Plymouth military community theatre project Boots at the Door, the Invictus Games, Help for Heroes, and the Military Wives Choir, I argue that the harnessing of the military hero figure by the state takes place through complex, spatially and temporally situated negotiations. These negotiations mobilise not only the hero subject himself, but also figures such as the military wife. Overall, my research advances understanding of how contemporary war functions in part through the creation of a military hero in the national imagination.
My second objective for this fellowship is to put in place the foundations necessary to conduct a planned future research project (beginning October 2019), which will focus on developing a theatre performance with military wives in Plymouth based on their lived experiences. This research will develop an alternative approach to the narrative of PTSD recovery often put forward in military community theatre, and will work with some of the unresolved politics and tensions surrounding military wives which I explore in my doctoral research.
In order to put in place the necessary foundations for this research project and develop funding proposals, I will conduct a small amount of pilot of preparatory research with my existing contacts in the Plymouth Military Wives Choir. This will help me to more clearly flesh out the parameters of the project, and establish a firm group of participants. This pilot research will involve a series of interviews and focus groups with military wives, as well as putting on a 'Play in a Day' in collaboration with TR2 of the Theatre Royal, Plymouth. In addition, I will participate in theatre and improvisation courses during the duration of the fellowship, including the six week Suggestibles 'School of Improv' course (£80) and the 'Devised Theatre' workshops (free) at the Live Theatre, both in Newcastle upon Tyne. These training courses will help me to become more familiar with drama and theatre as both creative practice and social research method. Finally, I will hold an interdisciplinary workshop on creative methods in military studies in June 2019, which will invite researchers as well as creative arts practitioners into conversation in order to think about how creative methods can help us approach wider questions in military studies and veteran research. These activities will assist me in the development of grant proposals for awards from the ESRC and the Leverhulme Trust, which I will work towards in the later stages of the fellowship.

Publications

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