Militarization, stigma, and resistance: negotiating military reservist identity in the civilian workplace

Paul Higate, Antonia Dawes, Tim Edmunds, K. Neil Jenkings, Rachel Woodward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (SciVal)


Set against the backdrop of the British Government’s Future Reserves 2020 (FR2020) programme, this article addresses military reservists’ experiences of how they are perceived by civilian colleagues in the workplace. Drawing on qualitative interviews with reservists, it analyses their understandings of civilian co-workers’ qualified and sometimes reluctant acceptance in light of FR2020’s implicit aim to use reservists to help realign civil–military relationships. While it appears that civilian work colleagues’ social distancing of reservists helps consolidate the wider public’s perceived lack of understanding of the British armed forces, a more critical view sees reservists’ largely unchallenged presence in the workplace as an exemplary, yet subtle instance of militarization. This is because reservists’ simultaneous (physical) inclusion and (social) distancing or stigmatization constitutes, and is constitutive of, their need to pass as civilian. In conclusion, we argue that a key implication of their passing as civilian is to neutralize debate of the legitimacy–or otherwise–of the armed forces as an institution tasked with violence on behalf of the state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-191
Number of pages19
JournalCritical Military Studies
Issue number2
Early online date10 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [ES/L012944/1]; and the Ministry of Defence [ES/L012944/1].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • civilian perception
  • militarization
  • Military reservists
  • stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Law


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