09 Sep

German Foundation for Peace Research Funds Project on “Gender in German Peace and Security Policy”

Beginning in September 2022, the German Foundation for Peace Research (DSF) will fund my project on “Gender in German Peace and Security Policy” for 2,5 years.

Gender constructions – understood as socially/discursively produced conceptions of masculinity and femininity – play an important role in foreign policy and international politics. Social constructions of subjects (e.g., political elites, soldiers, or the “local population” in conflict regions), objects (for instance, nuclear weapons), social practices (military interventions, economic sanctions, diplomacy), and institutions (like the foreign office or the armed forces) are gendered – they are interwoven with notions of masculinity and femininity. As a result, which options to address certain policy problems come to be regarded as more or less rational, appropriate, doable and morally acceptable depends not just on their objective problem adequateness but is also influenced by gendered behavioral expectations. This is especially the case in the “tough” world of security policy, in which the ideal-typical leader (the “statesman”) is marked by masculine characteristics like strength, toughness, and emotional sobriety. Likewise, public support for Western military interventions is at least in part the result of articulations of “women and children” allegedly in need of help. As the Afghan example shows, arguments like this do not necessarily have to correspond to any real lasting improvements in the security of vulnerable groups. While the influence of gendered constructions on foreign policymaking has been the subject of numerous studies, most case studies focus on the United States or the United Kingdom, and little if any attention is devoted to Germany. On the flipside, gender as an analytical category (let alone de- and postcolonial concepts such as coloniality or Orientalism) plays virtually no role in research on German security policy. And while liberal feminist conceptions of gender as primarily concerned with the role of women has become increasingly important as a factor in German foreign policy (no least under the leadership of Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock), there is little to no reflection on how gender constructions (e.g., notions of masculinity) impact foreign policymaking, despite the fact that such constructions can be a hindrance for the development of problem-adequate policy solutions.

Given this, the project pursues two main aims: First, based on a discourse analysis of German parliamentary debates on military operations, the project seeks to examine to what extent and how gender(ed) constructions influence German peace and security policy. In doing so, the project closes an important research gap. Second, the project seeks to cooperate with political actors and think tankers to develop policy recommendations aiming at a reduction of potentially counterproductive gendered constructions’ (or those influenced by coloniality, Orientalism, Eurocentrism, etc.) impact on German foreign policymaking, for instance through the decolonization of knowledge and knowledge production or increasing the diversity of actors involved in foreign policymaking. Ideally, this will contribute to the formulation of a consistent feminist foreign policy as envisioned by Foreign Minister Baerbock.

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15 Dec

BMBF Funds Project on “Knowledge Production in German Peace and Security Policy”

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has announced that it will fund the collaborative project “Knowledge Production in German Peace and Security Policy (KNOWPRO)” as part of its funding initiative to strengthen peace and conflict research, with ca. 1.5 million EUR.

Focussing on Afghanistan and Somalia as case studies, the project examines the knowledge that forms the basis for decisions (not) to intervene in armed conflicts. More specifically, the project is interested in what becomes accepted as objective knowledge about a given conflict in a certain context (e.g. a ministry or academic discipline) and how. Taking a sociological understanding of knowledge formation as its starting point, we expect that what counts as factual knowledge about a given issue will vary with context and depend not just on its objective truth but on different factors, including power, (lack of) expertise, bureaucratic politics, sedimented discursive practices, etc. To examine this proposition, the project compares knowledge production in three relevant areas: basic science, scientific policy advice, and government ministries and agencies. The project (a) explores to what extent knowledge differs between these three spheres, (b) develops a theoretical framework integrating discourse theoretical and sociological factors that explain which knowledge becomes accepted as the truth in a certain context, and (c) develops practical guidelines to improve knowledge transfer and decision making. The project combines quantitative corpus linguistic and interpretive methods of discourse analysis with qualitative interviews and ethnography in a mixed-methods design.

Co-PIs: Sophia Hoffmann, Dirk Nabers, Klaus Schlichte, Frank A. Stengel

Funding period: April 2022-March 2026

10 Aug

Article “Militarizing antimilitarism?” published open access in IFJP

My co-authored (w/ David Shim, University of Groningen) article “Militarizing antimilitarism? Exploring the gendered representation of military service in German recruitment videos on social media” has been published online in the International Feminist Journal of Politics. The article analyzes the gendered representation of military service in the German YouTube series Die Rekruten (DR) (The Recruits), a popular web series produced on behalf of the German armed forces (Bundeswehr) for recruitment purposes, which accompanies 12 navy recruits during their basic training. The article is situated within research on masculinity and the military, in particular military recruitment. It supplements current scholarship by studying a previously neglected case that is of particular interest given Germany’s antimilitarist culture, which should make military recruitment and military public relations more difficult. The article asks how military service is represented in DR, what its discursive effects are, and what role (if any) masculinity plays in this process. We find support for recent feminist research on military masculinities (including in military recruitment) that emphasizes ambiguity and contradiction. What distinguishes the construction of military masculinity in DR from, for example, recruitment advertisements in the United States or the United Kingdom is its markedly civil character. This not only broadens the military’s appeal for a more diverse audience but also increases the legitimacy of the military and its activities. It does so by concealing the violence that has for the past two decades also been a very real part of what the Bundeswehr does.

DOI: 10.1080/14616742.2021.1935289 (open access)

15 Apr

Article on Securitization as Discursive (Re)Articulation published online

I am happy to say that my article “Securitization as Discursive (Re)Articulation: Explaining the Relative Effectiveness of Threat Construction,” part of our symposium on Laclau and IR/IPE in New Political Science, has been published online.

It is available here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07393148.2019.1596682

A pre-print is available here.

09 Aug

Article “Social Media, Gender and the Mediatisation of War” now online

My article with David Shim on the visual representation of ISAF on the German armed forces’ Facebook page has been published online. The paper examinse the gendered visual representation of the ISAF operation on the German armed forces’ official facebook page.
The official version is available on the Taylor & Francis website, together with a response by Laura J. Shepherd.

Abstract:
Studies on the mediatization of war point to attempts of governments to regulate the visual representation of their involvements in armed conflict – the most notable example being the practice of ‘embedded reporting’ in Iraq and Afghanistan. This article focuses on a different strategy of visual meaning-making, namely, the publication of images on social media by armed forces themselves. Specifically, we argue that the mediatization of war literature could profit from an increased engagement with feminist research, both within Critical Security/Critical Military Studies and within Science and Technology Studies that highlight the close connection between masculinity, technology and control. The article examines the German military mission in Afghanistan as represented on the German armed forces’ official Facebook page. Germany constitutes an interesting, and largely neglected, case for the growing literature on the mediatization of war: its strong antimilitarist political culture makes the representation of war particularly delicate. The article examines specific representational patterns of Germany’s involvement in Afghanistan and discusses the implications which arise from what is placed inside the frame of visibility and what remains out of its view.