My project develops a sociology of military-civilian relations and links two unconnected debates: the blurring relations between the military and civilian organisations in the humanitarian context on the one hand and the integration of veterans into civilian work and life on the other hand.
The empirical research of this project focuses on the innovative disaster relief organisation Team Rubicon UK (TRUK) which was founded in 2015 and renamed itself RE:ACT in 2020. The organisation actively recruits military veterans, enables the skills transfer from the military to disaster relief and provides opportunities for interactions with civilians through activities of the organisation. I see TRUK/RE:ACT as a bridging organisation (Roth 2003) between military and civilian spheres and explore how it negotiates its identity as professional disaster relief organisation and as veterans’ organisation and the tensions that arise from this dual identity. In developing a sociology of military-civilian relations, I draw on and synthesise a wide range of literatures, including the sociology of organisations, careers, skills transfer, meaningful work in the third sector and the role of volunteering in the life-course.
- Develop a sociology of military-civilian relations
- Examine Team Rubicon’s role as bridging organization
- Consider the continuities and discontinuities between the military and disaster relief
- Deepen the understanding of peer-support in the context of volunteering
My project addresses two unconnected debates on changing military-civilian relations since the end of the Cold War and the Global War of Terror. On the one hand, this concerns the relationship between military and humanitarian organisations which has been increasingly blurred since nongovernmental organisations have been considered “force multipliers” with the mission of “winning hearts and minds” in the post 9/11 conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. On the other hand, in UK society, the general population has currently less contact with the military and military veterans than previous generations and tends to learn about the military through the media and the appeals of charities. Due to stereotypical representations and an emphasis on problems associated with the transition to civilian life, veterans have become associated with mental health issues, homelessness, and other problems, despite the fact that a vast majority of veterans successfully transition into civilian work and life. Through my multi-method study (participant information, semi-structured interviews, digital ethnography) of Team Rubicon UK/RE:ACT I address and link both of these debates and the tensions that arise from TRUK’s dual identity as professional disaster relief and veterans’ organisation. My study thus addresses civil-military relations among members of the organisation and the wider public, and how TRUK is situated in the wider field of humanitarianism and disaster relief.