Dr Federica Caso, Lecturer at the School of Political Science and International Studies, recently earned her PhD at UQ. Little did she know, her thesis would be nominated for a number of prestigious prizes from the Australian Political Studies Association: the Best Thesis and the Gender and Politics prize.

Just months after being made aware of this, Dr Caso found out that she won the 2020 APSA Thelma Hunter Gender and Politics PhD prize for her PhD thesis “Liberal Militarisation: Visualising the Military Body as a Form of Governance”!

Dr Caso was born in Sardinia in the Mediterranean Sea, and was surrounded by rich history and culture. She then went on to study at the London Metropolitan University, where she was exposed to theories of international relations, development and war. While there, her interest was piqued in writing, and she developed a passions for international politics, and eventually made her way to the UQ PhD program to study under the supervision of Professor Roland Bleiker.

Dr Caso’s PhD thesis investigates visual and performative representations of military bodies in war commemoration. As she puts it, “Militarisation is a term that we readily use for authoritarian and illiberal societies, but not for liberal societies like Australia. And yet, in liberal societies, we have a wealth of representation of the military and war.” She wanted to capture this concept and explore the idea that these military representations in liberal societies can normalise war and the military.

As she conducted her research, focusing on Australia, Dr Caso realised that these representations not only normalised war. As she puts it, “They assist in shaping society and forge a national identity. I used the extensive feminist scholarship on militarisation, the body, and emotions to develop my arguments that militarisation is a strategy for governing the social body and that public visual and performative representations of military bodies inform and define how civilians perceive war.”

The APSA judging panel was very impressed with Dr Caso’s thesis. They commented, “It takes an abstract and complex subject, and makes it accessible and important.” They awarded her the Thelma Hunter Gender and Politics PhD prize unanimously on 29 September.