Military Identities and Gender


Formal title

Military identities, body and gender. - A sociological analysis of cultures in the Norwegian Armed Forces


The aims of the research are to study which identities selected military cultures create; and further how the cultures are (re)constructed to create opportunities for wanted identities to be created, for example by introducing restrictions and barriers for some women and men.


It has been debated whether one or more warrior cultures is developing in the Norwegian Armed Forces. If so; what is a warrior culture? Why does such a development occur? Is this something to worry about? The Norwegian Defence University College has published a book on this debate titled Warrior Culture in a Peace Nation (Edström, Lunde & Haaland Matlary 2009) In this book several of the authors focus on the fact that there is a lack of  empirical knowledge about Norwegian military cultures and identities. This project intends to partially fill the void. 
Theoretically, the study will be based on Connell's (1993) theory of a hierarchical system of masculinities and femininities. Important in this theory is that masculinities and femininities are social constructions and that hegemonic masculinity is always constructed in relation to various subordinate masculinities, as well as in relation to various femininities. War and the military plays an important role in this construction.
The transformation of a body into a “soldier’s body” has an unmistakable gendered meaning. Through the soldiering “body project” (Connell 1995, 50), men’s bodies become visibly different from those of women. In this sense, the soldier’s embodiment plays a central role in the social construction of polarized gender identities and hierarchal gender regimes (Connell 1987) (Sasson-Levy 2008 s. 305).
If this is true it could be assumed that the transformation to a partially professionalized intervention defence, where participation can be considered as a "free" choice for those who meet the selection criteria, enabling masculine self actualisation, construction of identity and ratings of men in a different way than the old invasion defence which was based on a shorter mass training of all men (and some women). This has to have consequences for the (re)construction of military cultures.
The study will be conducted by answering two research questions:
1) What characterizes a selection of Norwegian military cultures?
2) How are identity, body and gender constructed in selected military cultures / professions?
To answer the questions of research a multi-method design will be used consisting of field studies/ (participatory) observation, qualitative interviews and document analysis will be carried out. 
The field studies/(participatory) observation will focus on the socialization into 1) common and 2) profession specific culture. The selected professions are planned to be marksmen and medics.  
25-30 Qualitative interviews will be sought with both newly qualified and experienced marksmen and medics.
The document analysis seeks insights into organizational processes and more or less conscious aspects of military cultures, including the prevailing perspectives and intentions that define and shape them. This will be white papers, doctrines, regulations, directives, curricula, educational plans, reports, recruitment materials and websites.