The gendered politics of researching military policy in the age of the ‘knowledge economy’

Abstract: This article explores our experiences of conducting feminist interpretive research on the British Army Reserves. The project, which examined the everyday work-Army-life balance challenges that reservists face, and the roles of their partners/spouses in enabling them to fulfil their military commitments, is an example of a potential contribution to the so-called ‘knowledge economy’, where publicly funded research has come to be seen as ‘functional’ for political, military, economic, and social advancement. As feminist interpretive researchers examining an institution that prizes masculinist and functionalist methodologies, instrumentalised knowledge production, and highly formalised ethics approval processes, we faced multiple challenges to how we were able to conduct our research, who we were able to access, and what we were able to say. We show how military assumptions about what constitutes proper ‘research’, bolstered by knowledge economy logics, reinforces gendered power relationships that keep hidden the significant roles women (in our case, the partners/spouses of reservists) play in state security. Accordingly, we argue that the functionalist and masculinist logics interpretive researchers face in the age of the knowledge economy help more in sustaining orthodox modes of knowledge production about militaries and security, and in reinforcing gendered power relations, than they do in advancing knowledge.

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License CC BY
DOI https://doi.org/10.1017/S0260210521000036
Type Journal Articles
C-ID POLS 120 - Theory
Pedagogical Note Not Yet

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