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'Being regimented'

'Being regimented': Aspiration, discipline and identity work in the British Parachute Regiment

Event details


Jan 14, 2009
from 02:00 PM to 03:30 PM


B1.19, Scarman Building

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'Being regimented': Aspiration, discipline and identity work in the British Parachute Regiment; a seminar presented by Professor Andrew Brown, University of Bath.

An auto-ethnographic and interpretive account (interviews and insider view). This is a case study of identity formation, structure and stability within a total organisation.

In this case interviews form a particularly suitable research method as the discursive reflections provided mirror the organisation's culture of story telling and exchange. Narratives were gathered in discursive interviews, a method, which may be argued, replicates diaglogic processes implicit in the deep socialisation of some total institutions. Story telling opportunities in this setting appear inevitable by virtue of the men living in close quarters, an almost claustrophobic environment of proximity and activity. Living without clear boundaries between their work and private lives presents opportunities for discursive identity accounts, recounting good stories, which propagate and prop the mythology and culture of the paras. But while they live within what may be characterised as a culture of violence, they see themselves as not gorillas with machine guns, but rather as men of honour and courage, strong, tough, resilient, and united by a distinctive camaraderie.

Analysis reveals an iconic striving by all (enlisted and officer), of each individual consciously engaged in personal dressage, designing and ordering themselves mentally and bodily in aspiring toward the putatively unattainable goal of being a para. In dressage we create ourselves as works of art (Foucault, 1991), but for the paras the aspirational identity is never complete; the men constantly seek, pursue, and contest, with no end in sight except perhaps by leaving or in death. In this way, with no end point to their striving we might posit the identity of a para as intentionally open and just beyond grasp; and that is the point.