There is an often-held misconception that the integration of women into the UK Armed Forces is a linear story of incremental progression. In this fascinating talk, Dr Hannah West will chart this staggered progression, highlighting some of the overlooked nuances of women’s role in counterinsurgency.
Starting with women’s outreach programmes during the Malaya Emergency, Dr West will go on to examine British servicewomen as covert and conventional operators during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and Female Engagement Teams in Afghanistan.
She will utilise women’s testimonies to illuminate their presence on the ‘front line’ - a traditionally male domain - and expose how they navigated their identities in this space. She will also reveal the ways in which the UK Armed Forces reconciled women’s presence on the ‘front line’, for example, by sustaining the narrative of the non-combatant.
Dr Hannah West is a former Royal Navy Air Engineer and draws on her lived experience as a former servicewoman through her research. Hannah is Founder and Chair of the Defence Research Network, a peer-to-peer support network for early career researchers and a knowledge exchange with policymakers and practitioners.
Hannah is committed to bringing about change in how we understand war and militaries through the testimonies of former servicewomen. Her inter-disciplinary research encompasses gendered knowledge production, critical thinking, counterinsurgency and military power.