Theresa Ammann – The Human Security Profile of September 2018

This is a post from The Human Security Angle: the newsletter of the Master’s Programme in Human Security at Aarhus University.

Theresa, why did you decide to study human security at Aarhus University?

Choosing the Masters of Human Security at Aarhus University was both a personal and a career-based decision. Coming from New Zealand, Aarhus University might not seem like the most straightforward choice, but I met a Dane during my Overseas Exchange and wanted to situate myself in Scandinavia.

Having studied peace research-related papers in the final year of my Bachelor’s in Political Science, I knew I wanted to adopt a more holistic approach than what the usual Master’s in Political Science had to offer. Realist approaches in International Relations, and the heavy reliance on quantitative indicators, never quite convinced me, so I chose the Human Security programme because of its thematic and methodological holism.

Theresa Ammann

Where did you do your work placement, and what did you learn?

During the first year in Human Security, I applied for a 4+4 PhD position. This meant that I opted for individual fieldwork rather than a work placement. My original project sought to investigate how the neglect of women and their psychological needs in the Liberian peacebuilding process had influenced the sustainability of peace.

I was going to conduct twelve months of fieldwork in urban and rural Liberia, but the Ebola outbreak set an end to my plans. I was thus recalled by Aarhus University and not allowed to return until the outbreak was officially considered over. This radically changed my topic, causing me to adapt my PhD to the concerns of Liberians, and allowed me to write on The Entangled & Changing InSecurity Becomings in the Aftermath of War and Ebola. The biggest takeaway message for me was: put your informants’ concerns and needs first.

A poster showing community efforts to end the spread of Ebola. Local community actions soon proved more efficient at halting Ebola and international organisations began to support them financially.

What are you doing at the moment?

I am currently working as a postdoc in an interdisciplinary project between Aarhus University’s Psychology and Anthropology departments, criminologists from the University of Cambridge, and the Danish National Police. Our project compares different mediation practices to establish the best practice for Danish victim-offender meetings in terms of victim wellbeing and offender recidivism. It’s a mixed-methods project that strives for an experimental ethnography.

As one of the lecturers in the Human Security programme, I am also teaching our Research Methods course and acting as master’s supervisor.

What have you taken with you from your human security studies?

A lot has changed since I started my Master’s in Human Security and it has been a pleasure to see the programme grow and be an active part of this change. Six years later, I have turned my back on the methodological roots of my bachelor’s and self-identify more as an ethnographer than I ever thought possible. Human security is a foundational part of my academic identity. Who knows, maybe we’ll one day be able to call ourselves “human securitists?”

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