Doing Social Sciences on the Military Field : A Special Operation ?

Monday, July 14, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: Booth 50
Oral Presentation
Alicia PAYA Y PASTOR , Université Lille 2, CERAPS , Lille, France

Doing social sciences on the military field: a special operation?

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the production process of scientific knowledge on the military and to reveal the complex and diverse relations – and their effects - between:

  • the researcher and the military staff he or she is studying (depending on the social background, the age, the gender, the academic level and the military socialization of the former)

  • the researcher and the military institution (understanding of the functioning of the hierarchical organization and its values)

  • the researcher’s academic environment (university or think-tanks affiliations) and the armed forces

The present paper aims at giving a thorough understanding of the complexity of the researcher social position during his/ her social sciences investigations in the army. It is based on a personal experience as a Ph.D Student working on the French Land Forces. Being at the same time a female Ph.D Student in political sciences working on the French Army, a junior academic and a reservist who enrolled as a private and evolves now in a high level headquarters; generates a very particular inquiry context and can be used as an asset if and if only the researcher is fully aware of the consequences of its presence on the military field.

This paper will also debate the importance of a personal and physical commitment from a methodological viewpoint and will discuss the opportunity of developing a comprehensive approach based on the simultaneous use of qualitative (sociological interviews, ethnographic observation), quantitative (questionnaire inquiry) and comparative methodologies. The usual case-selection problematic will be treated by focusing on a specific population: the French reservists. Lastly, the “specificity” of the army as a special social field that requires specific scientific tools (to gain access, to evolve in the institution) will be pondered.