Modern-Day Mercenaries? Cowboys, GreyMen, and the Emotional Habitus


Set against the backdrop of the rapid growth in the Private Military and Security Company (PMSC) industry, this chapter considers the deeper roots to contractors’s presentation of professional self. Based on field research by the author, it draws on the ideal types of high- versus low-profile performances of contractor security work that are mapped on to American national identity in the case of the former, and the British in regard to the latter. In theoretical terms, the concept of the emotional habitus is developed as one way to illuminate the embodied and emotional dimensions of these contrasting profiles that, in turn, can also be explained by reference to the historical and cultural contexts from which they come. Here, compensatory masculinities flowing from gendered insecurity are discussed in the American case, whereas the British class system is invoked to account for the low-profile, somewhat more ‘assured’ British security performance. In conclusion, the political repercussions of these profiles are briefly considered.

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