'Cowboys and Professionals': The Politics of Identity Work in the Private and Military Security Company


Higate, Paul. 2011. "'Cowboys and Professionals': The Politics of Identity Work in the Private and Military Security Company." Journal of International Studies 40 (2): 321-41.

Author: Paul Higate


This article examines the politics of identity work in the private security industry. Drawing on memoirs authored by British private military contractors, and using a theoretical framework influenced by symbolic interactionist thought, the article highlights the relevance of inter-subjectivity to identity constitution. In particular, British contractors are found to constitute their professional identity in relation to their US military and contractor counterparts, above all by framing them as ‘less-competent others’. This article makes an original contribution to the private and military security companies literature through its sociological focus on the links between national and professional self-identities and security practices on the ground. The article also explores the importance of the memoir genre as a valid textual resource which throws light on the interplay of the international and security dimensions within multinational military and militarised contexts. (JSTOR)

Keywords: private security, masculinity, identity politics

Topics: Combatants, Male Combatants, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Private Military & Security, Security Regions: Europe Countries: United Kingdom

Year: 2011

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