“We serve today for a better tomorrow”: DynCorp International and the privatisation of military humanitarianism

Alessandra Chinsen1
1University of Melbourne, Bentleigh, VIC

Military humanitarianism is being privatised, through the use of private military companies (PMCs) for military humanitarian operations by global north states. Although there has been significant problematisation of both PMCs and military humanitarianism in scholarly literature, research into the privatisation of military humanitarianism is underdeveloped. This thesis is concerned with the discursive strategies that PMCs use to legitimate themselves as private military humanitarian actors in the face of scrutiny. These narratives are of particular salience to criminologists, as they provide the discursive foundation for the proliferation of PMCs into military humanitarian work, thus sustaining their domination. I used a case study approach to examine DynCorp International, a United States PMC contracted by the United States government for military humanitarian work. Drawing from critical and Marxist theories of state-corporate crime and the occlusion of harm, I analysed the discursive strategies used by DynCorp International through their YouTube videos and blog posts to legitimate themselves as a private military humanitarian actor. I found that DynCorp International uses three discourses, of corporatisation and neoliberalism, humanitarianism and colonialism, and militarism and patriotism, to represent itself. Throughout these discourses, the PMC emphasises its connection to the United States government. I argue that DynCorp International’s use of discursive strategies indicates the growing imbrication of PMCs with the state and its military humanitarian operations, while also exposing the inherent tensions in military humanitarian work and therefore providing opportunities for critique. This thesis thus provides new ways of analysing PMCs and the discourses that legitimate private military humanitarianism.


Alessandra is a student completing her honours year in Criminology at the University of Melbourne. She is interested in critical and Marxist analyses of state-corporate crime, and particularly their intersections with global criminologies.


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