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  • 2019longphd

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Living liminal lives: Army partners' experiences and perspectives of navigating and negotiating avenues for support

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2019
Number of pages298
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Army partners (APs), defined as individuals in a relationship with a currently-serving member of the British Army, are key members of the Armed Forces Community (AFC). This thesis presents the findings of a qualitative study exploring APs’ perspectives and experiences of the return of their serving partner post combat-related deployment. Through the thematic analysis
of interviews with 26 APs and 26 individuals working within support services, it explores APs’ navigation and negotiation of coping strategies including informal and formal support options. By examining data alongside relevant theories - militarisation, liminality, gendered identities, and stigma – it critically engages with the impact that military culture(s) and expectations have upon APs’ experiences of support-seeking. The reintegration process is complex, influenced by experiences and perspectives of other periods of the deployment cycle, and engagement with military life. APs live ‘liminal lives’ marked by change, pressure to adapt/cope, and the negotiation of military-governed disruption to the family. APs reflected on what it means to be an Army partner and by doing so presented identities which related to their exposure to the
military, military processes, and the AFC. It is likely that these identities gave APs a sense of stability, strength, and pride in a world marked by flux – influencing everyday practices, especially in ‘being an Army partner’ managing deployment and its effects. Whilst descriptions of identities varied between APs, common factors related to their perceived role to support their SP/the military. Problematically, perpetuating some Army partner identities, which were
militarised constructs, limited the likelihood of support-seeking when required. Identities are (re)created and maintained through the disciplinary techniques of the gaze, performance, and stigma. Hence, APs preferred to ‘manage on their own’ and were concerned that seeking support publicly risked being judged as ‘needy’, the antithesis of the valued traits of a militarised AP.