A reflective essay in which the author discusses the implications facing civilian academics when conducting research with military veterans.
This paper provides a series of critical reflections on the tensions involved in researching the lives of military veterans. In particular, tensions arising when civilian researchers attempt to speak on behalf of veterans, combined with problematic attempts to achieve an academic 'understanding' of veterans' lives, generate concerns regarding the potential misrepresentation of their unique experiences. Following recent examples in critical military studies, these issues are brought to the fore through dialogue and critical debate with colleagues and research participants. The paper first introduces a theoretical backdrop to the tensions being debated. Following Gadamer, the concept of 'horizons of understanding' is then introduced to suggest how we might usefully consider and address these tensions. Horizons comprise that which we are able to understand based on prior knowing. It is argued that 'dialogical' research constitutes one possible means of expanding our horizons in work with veterans. Challenges to dialogical research are discussed in light of prevailing conditions within and beyond neoliberal academia, before concluding with practical suggestions of how dialogical research might generate more productive and responsible research with military veterans.
Nick Caddick, Alex Cooper & Brett Smith (2017): Reflections on being a civilian researcher in an ex-military world: expanding horizons?, Critical Military Studies