#ScholarSpotlight with Mariah Loukou

Mariah Loukou is currently completing her PhD in Critical Military Studies at City, University of London, where she is examining whether the U.S. armed forces can be transformed by tackling hegemonic masculinities through the female approach. She is a higher education professional with extensive experience of working in student-facing, academic quality support, governance and policy development roles. In her current role as Research and Enterprise Policy Officer, Mariah is managing research and enterprise processes and develops new policies with the more recent examples being the Intellectual Property policy and the Conflict of Interest policy. Mariah completed her Master’s degree in Intelligence and International Security from the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. She serves as Elections and Funding Officer of the BISA Post-Graduate Network Committee. 

In this chat with Global Policy: Next Generation, Mariah discusses her research on gender and the military, ideas for transformational change that can inform policymakers, and following her instincts.

What is the focus of your research? 

My research assesses the advantages and drawbacks of the Norwegian experiment of all-female special forces unit called Jegertroppen or Hunter troops, and how the U.S. military can benefit from the advantages of such experiment around the education and training of special forces female soldiers.  

Why is your research important to you? 

I believe that transforming the operational way of the military can bring wide-spread change in society on how we think and apply meritocracy. There is currently an emphasis on giving marginalized groups equal opportunities, which is an important time in history. However, I am looking ahead to say that if we choose the ‘best person for the job’ based on their performance and ability we will have diverse cohorts not only in the military but also in every workspace.

Which academics’ work has inspired some of your key thinking?

Professor Cynthia Enloe! Her interviews, books and approach has inspired me to push through when things got overwhelming. I was lucky enough to meet and talk to her last year. Within minutes, she was able to pass on some wise words that stayed with me until today.

What issues do you see your field being focused upon in the next several years?

I see my field focused on questions such as ‘What does effective military operations mean and how they look like on the ground?’; ‘What does equality mean in this context’; and how patriarchal values shape the construction of masculine and feminine identities within state institutions’.

How does your research link to or have an impact on global policy issues?

My research suggestion asks the U.S. government to look at its National Defense Strategy and how it can incorporate a new educational military system in its already existing structure. This would impact its policies around women in combat and their recognition in frontline roles. Such changes in a country with major external influence can impact institutional policies in the U.N. and NATO and how they take forward initiatives like the Women, Peace and Security agenda.

What is the one piece of advice you wish you had been given when starting your academic career?

Listen to your instinct more than anything. A lot of people are ready to give advice, but the reality is that what works for me won’t word for someone else and vice-versa. So instead of trying to duplicate a research schedule that does not suit me causing unnecessary anxiety and stress, I would say ‘do it your way!’ that is the whole point of a PhD anyway. 

What is one must-read book/ article for scholars not in your field?

The Big Push: Exposing and Challenging Persistent Patriarchy by Professor Cynthia Enloe.