Lotte Palm Høgh
Department of Anthropology, PhD Study Council
Øster Farimagsgade 5, Opgang E
1553 København V
Primary fields of research
Keywords: High risk work, military, special operations forces, stress inoculation, stress exposure training, risk perceptions, embodied learning.
My research explores the learning processes of high risk work in a maritime special operations force; the Danish Frogman Corps.
The corps' operators engage in complex and time-sensitive operations in dangerous environments opposite risk-willing and agile adversaries. How do they learn to deal professionally with the stress, uncertainty and danger of their work?
Through ethnograhic fieldwork and interviews with the corps' training instructors, candidates and operators I have explored how the corps' instructors design learning experiences for candidates by immersing them in a mirror microcosm of operative life, while purposefully working on candidates' emotions, responses and interpretations. The corps' learning model is holistic, not only placing emphasis on formal skills acquisition and physical fitness and endurance, but also on cultivating the mindset, values, attitudes and traits that are fit for high-risk military work. As an experiential model of operative life, it is also a highly challenging and distressing learning experience. However, it is through the embodied experience of stress, danger and pain that a soldier emerges who is able to perform skillfully under immense pressure in complex and fast-paced situations.
While such a transgressive learning practice challenge the comfort zones and sensibilities of modern mainstream pedagogy, I argue that the stress and discomfort of the learning experience can not be evaluated functionally or morally separate from the stress and danger of operative conditions and the demands for extreme performance that are placed on special operations forces.
As an applied research project i situate my research within current concerns and discussions of training and educating for high-risk work in military and law enforcement organisations.