Masculinity and modern warfare

12 March 2019
Meet Nicole Wegner, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Gender and War

Over the next 3 years, Dr Nicole Wegner will examine popular assumptions about the “ideal soldier” and how cultural myths shape military policies and priorities in Australia and abroad.

Dr Nicole Wegner


Hailing from Canada and having spent several years as a lecturer at the University of Saskatchewan, Dr Nicole Wegner joins the Department of Government and International Relations as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow where she will examine issues relating to the modern military including suicides, sexual assault, and the relationships between military and national identity.

What does your research involve?

My current research looks at the gendered relationship between identity and military service. I examine how masculinity and femininity can affect military identity. This includes how “masculine” attributes such as aggressiveness and physical strength are often promoted as ideal soldierly characteristics. My research reflects upon this type of ‘military masculinity’ in modern warfare, where counterinsurgency techniques require soldiers to win the “heart and minds” of local populations.

I also examine how war-fighting, defence spending, or military bellicosity are viewed as favourable mechanisms to “toughen” up a nation’s identity. I study cultural myths, such as Canada’s long-standing affinity for peacekeeping internationally and Australia’s national ANZAC commemorations, and how these myths influence military policies and priorities.

I am currently focusing on how military and national identity were articulated in government policies and media coverage during military interventions in Afghanistan from 2001-2014.

The research process

The majority of my research involves content and discourse analysis. I examine government and military policies, media images and text, speeches by politicians, testimonies of military personnel, and recruitment campaign imagery and text.

Why the University of Sydney?

I am working with Professor Megan MacKenzie, who is a renowned scholar in International Relations and feminist theory. I came to the University of Sydney specifically to work with her on gender and war research.

We are working collaboratively on two projects. The first project explores connections between ideals of military masculinity and military suicides and the second project explores sexual assault in armed forces and the ways this phenomenon has gendered patterns.

What do you hope to achieve?

There are many “common sense” assumptions about the military, including who makes a good soldier, what activities and behaviours are normal and acceptable for militaries, and what types of policies and funding are appropriate for defence and military spending.

I hope to unpack these assumptions so that the politics of military service, military identity, and defence funding are made obvious. This will allow us, as a society, to make clear choices and preferences about defence policies.

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