littlemsmack: (Default)
Ontology: Be.
Ethics: Be kind. Be likable.
Politics: Be just.
Epistemology: Be known.
Aesthetics: Be kinda like just y'know "perfect."

Courtesy of @janmpdx (https://twitter.com/janmpdx/status/600284282012053505)

Because every now and again, it's good to remember the basics.
littlemsmack: (Default)
Turgenev famously said: “We all came out from under Gogol’s coat.” He was talking about Russian literature but he might also have been describing form’s ability to speak in what Frank O’Connor called “the lonely voice” – to create a space where the marginal and the odd can be heard;

from
http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2015/02/distraction-techniques-neil-gaiman-s-new-book-proves-you-can-t-read-short-story

I was reading the article because it was about Gaiman, who I love as an author; because it was about short stories as a genre, which I find interesting in general; because it discusses the power and necessity of the written, printed word, which is a debate I'm interested in following; because....

And the list could go on and I. But the passage above caught my eye. And lingered. Partly, I am caught up by what it means in the context of this article, but for the rest I am (with PhD-head on) caught on the Poststructural reference. Because in particular here, it translates theory from something abstract and academically debated, to something that is translated into "real life" meaning.
littlemsmack: (Default)
Well, it tickles me to realise I'm writing the Navy section of this chapter with the Pirates of the Caribbean score playing.

This chapter has also hit 11,010 words. This CHAPTER. My MA thesis was only 10,000 words long. Which, I guess, is the reminder that I'm writing a PhD, not just another dissertation.

Though I've clearly not learnt from previous experiences, as once again, its 2am the night before something is due, and I have unfinished writing in front of me. So, back to it....
littlemsmack: (I'll Find You)
I began to think that the first step toward seeing the end is to come to terms with what it means to be right in the middle."

From this NYT op ed piece, "When is a War Over?"

It's the closing sentence, and aside the really interesting perspective the writer brings to the value of history, of storytelling, of learning from what has gone before throughout the piece, this sentence makes me want to stop and reflect on the PhD process. I've been busy panicking about the approaching end - dismissing questions of "what will you do after?" -with rejoinders that I'm too busy trying to write to even THINK about the end...but perhaps I do need to pause. See the trees and the wood - the PhD's not just the final written output, it's the journey as well (yup, trying for as many cliches as I can get into this sentence) and perhaps I really can't write the end, if I'm not sure about what's in the middle, and what being in the middle means.

Endurance

Friday, 21 November 2014 12:51
littlemsmack: (Default)
I went to a talk on Weds at the Imperial War Museum, reflecting on WWI and today, and "What Makes Soldiers Fight". A lot of thoughts to be written up about that (around both the content but also the 'performance' as it were, of the talk).

But the opening panelist talked to not only the motivations of Great War soldiers to enlist, but the mentality of resilience that made them endure the duration of the conflict. Reading this article just now "The Two Deaths of Crazy Fakhir", brought this quality back to mind. Fakhir fought in today's Iraq conflict - his endurance was that despite losing a leg in 2008 he continued working to disarm IEDs until one finally killed him last week. His endurance was his drive to continue to work, to protect others from IEDs.

Today, we often cite the motivations and endurance of the Great War soldiers, and the resilience of the citizens, as something unique to its time, utterly discrete and try though we may to draw parallels and understanding for today's environment, we may not be successful or appropriate in doing so.

Fakhir's example of one individual's continued drive to participate, contribute and make a difference in their conflict is the kind of motivation we probably should laud all the more, not least when attempting to devise policy from understanding of just where armed forces (and indeed individuals) sit within society.

 
littlemsmack: (Lego Wonder Woman)
My favourite quote that I have come across today is:

In the cinema, women were usually depicted as practical and capable - and those who moaned were usually dead by the end of the film.

from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/britain_wwtwo/women_at_war_01.shtml

 

Chapter Writing

Wednesday, 8 October 2014 14:47
littlemsmack: (Did You Lose A Cat?)
That moment when I read back over something I've written earlier in the chapter and am impressed by it?

Is also a sign that I've spent too long not reading or writing this chapter, because I don't really remember my own words. 
littlemsmack: (Keep Calm Drink Tea)
 Last week, quite a few people were keen to ensure I’d seen the story about the allegations of an affair between the commander of a Royal Navy warship and the serving lieutenant commander. I read the stories – and some of the comments – and then dismissed it as not a huge blip on my radar. After all, it’s not like this could have been the first time in the Navy’s history that a superior and subordinate were found to be fraternising within the chain of command. That, and the fact that the story was around allegations and was not confirmed, made it somewhat a non-story as far as I was concerned.

The fact that it was the UK’s first female warship commander added a particular slant, which I guess is why it ran so prominently in the press. And the comments that the story attracted simply demonstrated that many people are quick to judge, and condemn, despite any gaps in the facts of the story. Not to mention extrapolate from one individual to a multitude.

And then a defence correspondent contacted me for my opinion in answer to some questions they had about the story. Ultimately, they didn’t write the story, but I wanted to set my thoughts out anyway, rather than consign them to the “sent” folder of my inbox. To that end:

Dear x,

In response to your questions:

To suggest that Cdr West's alleged case is a vindication of the argument that women should not serve/captain ships is ridiculous, as it suggests that all women should be judged by the actions of one. In the same vein, if the Navy changes its policy based on this example, it too is using the supposed actions of an individual to represent every female within the Navy.

Moreover, it must surely be recognised that would be a double standard. I am doubtful that in the Navy's entire history there have been no men who have had affairs with either male or female colleagues, and unless they have been subjected to the same scrutiny and response, it becomes victimisation of a group of people, again based on the actions of an individual (well, pair of individuals as obviously it takes two for an affair).

If the allegations are true, the Navy must take the same actions as it would, had it been a male commander and a female within his chain of command. There is no question about it. But it should do so out of the public eye, unless the Navy wishes to publicise every personnel incident that it has to administrate.

However, as a consequence of the story, the Navy may think twice as hard about the next female they look to promote - certainly, the media will subject whichever female follows in Cdr West's career footsteps to intense scrutiny. However, it would be incredibly damning as an organisation for the Navy to deliberately alter policy based on the one, at present alleged, incident. It would only reinforce perceptions that as an organisation the Navy does not welcome women, and itself perpetuates a double standard over the behaviour it tolerates from its personnel.

Finally, until the Navy does have answers, this is still speculation and gossip, nothing more.

But then today, this popped up on my newsfeed. The story revolves around the USS COWPENS, and the problem its command encountered, when command was delegated, usurped and just downright dispersed to all the wrong places in the chain of command.

The piece is excellent. It pulls out key points but retains an eye to the big picture (the fact that the ship completed its tour without “a major long term ship, service, or national security impact”) and it doesn’t spiral the matter down to a problem of gender. Sure, it has a role, but this is kept within perspective and certainly doesn’t fall to either politically correct overload or to damning condemnation of the gender/military mix. It’s simply one of the factors that contribute to the overall situation. What a refreshing way to see story reported, especially for me, given the response we’ve had in the UK to what’s supposedly gone on aboard HMS Portland.

littlemsmack: (Default)
http://listakrzystka.pl/en/

This incredible list has been compiled, of all Polish Air Force personnel who served in the UK during WWII. I've found my grandfather, at which point I think I need 5mins and a cup of tea. Then I'm going to work out why my grandmother isn't on the list.

Never mind. Found her. Totally awesome.

 
littlemsmack: (Default)
The following call for papers landed in my inbox. Not something I would be able to contribute to, but hugely interesting. Wounds as a way of mapping and measuring...my fellow PhD victim made me articulate why I was using gender as my yardstick to measure conceptualisation over the other day. But she did so by asking what other means I could have used, and wounds was certainly not something that crossed my mind. I feel this is prodding some thoughts - what, I'm not yet sure of. But its certainly starting...something.

Thousands of soldiers are returning to their respective home fronts––such as in the U.S., Fiji, Canada, Britain, Puerto Rico, Australia, and Sweden––after their tours of duty in the U.S.-led Global War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. Scholars, policy experts, and the public are increasingly turning their attention to the multiple struggles of veterans’

experiences––such as the visible and invisible wounds of war––on both the homefront and the warfront. These national and global discourses on the soldier’s wounded body often circulate through dominant narrative practices and multiple transnational media imaginaries. Veterans returning from war set “the standard of soldiering” (Eichler 2013) and these standards are often measured according to national discourses of the Wounded Warrior Hero whose honour is valorised through the visible and tangible appearance of missing limbs and other bodily mutilations categorized as official combat wounds.

These hegemonic narratives however conjure up several questions: How does the privileging of combat wounds address, marginalize, or make invisible other forms of wounding that may be produced by processes of militarization? How does multiplying our understandings of “injuries” sustained through “service” provide a more nuanced conceptualization of the military as a gendered institution? This panel presents a series of papers which probe the meaning of military wounding through investigations of combat wounds, sexual assault in the military, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the “visible” and “invisible” effects of war on soldiers’ and civilians’ bodies on the homefront/warfront. It seeks to interrogate sustained gendered, racial, sexual, and colonial hierarchies and their implications for gendered citizenship both in relation to military service and in contemporary national and global cultures.

--

Stephanie Szitanyi

PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science Rutgers University Hickman Hall

89 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901

littlemsmack: (CHARGE!)
 Latest bit of writing, in the wake of last week's announcement that the review into whether women should continue to be excluded from ground combat jobs will be a) started and b) completed by the end of the year.

See: Women in Combat: British Band of Brothers May Soon Be History
littlemsmack: (I'll Find You)
 Amidst the various articles that my subscriptions dump into my inbox, this one caught my eye this morning: "Partners in War, and Ending It". It actually made me pause for a moment to realise that in looking down at the details, I'd stopped thinking about the big picture. Part way through reading, I paused to think on this

"war continues to seduce people. In war, normal life is suspended. Routines abruptly stop; ad hoc behavior becomes the norm. Few can avert their eyes from a military demonstration of shock and awe, whether with broadsword and catapult or stealth bomber and battle tank.

It's true. War fascinates, throughout history. After all, the Bayeux Tapestry is the 1070 version any documentary or official record produced today, and produced because the events still interest and fascinate us. It's the bit inside all of us that might not be capable of hands on physical violence, but still can't tear our eyes away of the spectacle of it occurring in front of us.

However, it was the concluding paragraph that really prompted me to write this.

"
And just as different types of men experience war differently – some as drawn to it, some reluctantly doing their duty, some repulsed by what occurs – it will be the same for women. Men and women will be a more effective team in modern warfare. How much better it would be, however, if men and women teamed up to hasten the end of war altogether."


In terms of arguing from the tactical weeds, its a common point. Some women will succeed in ground combat, some will not, just as some men will and other won't. Neither "men" nor "women" can seriously be argued as a homogenous category from which all men, or all women, can be used as a measurement. But it is that closing sentence that gives me pause for thought. I don't envisage a world without war, but I do forget that accepting it as a reality to be dealt with now should not mean stopping work, on ways that would make warfare obsolete and unnecessary. Not my area of work, but a good reminder of a bigger picture.
littlemsmack: (Default)
New Year prompts a whole bunch of review about life in general. I took a look back over the intro chapter I had written for my thesis, the notes I had made from my last supervision, and all the comments my supervisors had made.

So I have deleted everything out of the chapter. Looking at a page that's as blank as the title.




Which wouldn't be so bad, except I'm not sure that my head's not also as blank as the page.
littlemsmack: (Default)
I wasn't one of those students at school who could memorise and recite whole passages, declaim texts as a parrot repeats words. Probably a good thing, because the achievement of flawless repetition would have occluded attempts to have the brain engage with what words actually mean, and think, not just speak. But even if I couldn't remember the exact content of a text, its style left a mark. Good prose that makes for pleasant reading, and the transfer of information, is a wonderful thing. 

I came across this entry about the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, and events around its evolution as the centenary of WWI approaches. A great entry in itself, it linked to former Prime Minister Keating's eulogy for the Unknown Soldier in 1993. And that is a wonderful text. Fascinating, to see the story told, and place it takes in the fabric of national memory and social legend.

I probably won't remember the text of the eulogy itself, but I shall certainly remember the sentiment and feelings it evoked in me, and that's what will prompt me to come back to it, at any point in the future.
littlemsmack: (CHARGE!)
Arriving in the post today, my latest PhD-collection acquisition: Jim George's Discourses of Global Politics: A Critical (Re)Introduction to International Relations. Very much interested in revising my MA in International Politics from this differing perspective, as well as seeing how such a re-framing can help my engagement with defence also from a non-Positivist, non-IR sense.

If, that is, I find the time to read the thing. The stack of "books to read" currently stands as tall as me.
littlemsmack: (Oh R2)
 At work, I am now the "gender" person. In the daily trawl through the world of internet information, if something (blog, article, advert, news, reviews) contains the words "gender" or "women", it usually gets shot over to me for my information, interest, or use. It's been fairly depressing lately, as a lot of things which have made issues have been the sexual harassment/assault/abuse issues within the American military.

Today was different, instead, I got a blog post about recruitment, and unconscious bias. It's perhaps what is at the heart of gender studies - that whilst society and our world at large is now pretty quick to point out transgressions, and leap on the bandwagon of outrage and indignation, many people are actually blithely unaware of the unconscious bias in the social fabric itself.

No idea what I'm talking about? This was what I was emailed today, framed specifically with regards to (female) recruitment into the engineering sector, a stereotypically/traditionally male industry, and the follow up advice that addresses the argument of "change what you can, accept what you can't...or influence it all".

And now, back to the my regular schedule of PhD-ing.
littlemsmack: (I'll Find You)
Proof that having to concentrate on a class essay on ethics only leads the mind to think on other things. Today's distillation of the research aim, question and direction, in 60 seconds and to fit on one side of a post-it note:

What does the changing of gender roles in defence, tell us about the (changing) definition of defence?

Necessitating looking at
- how gender roles and have changed, and why; and from there;
- what implications this has for identity and
- leadership within defence. 

And that actually makes sense in my head.

Now to go back to struggling over the ethics involved in research in general, in my research in particular, and where it all fits in a Poststructural (Foucault) and Poststructural (Feminist) continuum.
littlemsmack: (CHARGE!)
So in time I will put up a post on me, myself and I. By which I mean my research, my attempts to navigate the world of completing a PhD, and the general interests I have.

But perhaps to kick it off, a little something that I have contributed in wake of the US announcement of the ending of restrictions against women in combat roles:

Women in Combat: The Changing of the Guard

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