Critical Studies on Security
The article illustrates the potential of narrative analysis as a transdisciplinary method for Critical Security Studies by investigating self-legitimizing narratives of private military and security companies (PMSCs) and contrasting them to the narratives on PMSCs found in the news media. Employing narrative analysis and focusing on the websites of 55 PMSCs and 4 quality US and British newspapers, we reconstruct how PMSCs and the media establish 4 conflicting narratives characterizing PMSCs as technical and military experts vs. incompetent cowboys, professional businessmen vs. exploiting war profiteers, noble humanitarians vs. uncontrolled abusers and proud patriots vs. dirty mercenaries. Our analysis shows that the self-narratives of the PMSCs largely fail to arrive in the public media narratives, although some self-characterizations such as the expert or the businessman resonate somewhat better than others, in particular the strongly romanticizing images of the humanitarian or the patriot. We propose the concept of ‘intertextual narratability’ to suggest that the media reception of PMSCs’ self-narratives is shaped by their (lack of) connectability to existing culturally embedded narratives on PMSCs.