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Photo of Dr Sergio Catignani

Dr Sergio Catignani

Associate Professor in International Relations


01392 725594

Dr Sergio Catignani is Reader/Associate Professor in International Relations. He joined the University of Exeter in 2013.

Dr Catignani has an MA (Hons) Political Studies (Aberdeen), MLitt (Research) International Relations (Aberdeen), and DPhil War Studies (King's College London) and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Between 1 September 2010 and 31 August 2011 Dr. Catignani was a Leverhulme Research Fellow and conducted an empirical study on the British Army's adaptation to the insurgency campaign in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Although funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the study was sponsored by then Land Warfare Director General, Major General Nick Carter, currently Chief of the Defence Staff.

He was between 2014 and 2018 Principal Investigator on a joint funded ESRC-Ministry of Defence grant titled, “Sustaining Future Reserves 2020: Assessing Organisational Commitment in the Reserves”. With co-investigator, Dr Victoria Basham (Cardiff University), he examined the impact that Reserve service has both on reservists and their spouse/partners, the ways in which reservists balance their work, family and Reserve commitments and how their spouses/partners provide support at enabling reservists to balance such commitments.

Dr Catignani is an Associate Editor of European Journal of International Security and the  Critical Military Studies journal and sits on the editorial board of the new Studies in Contemporary Warfare book series (IB Tauris).

Office hours, Term 2, AY 2023-24 (pre-booking by email necessary):

  • In person: Fridays 12:35-13:35, Amory Room B215; and
  • Mondays: 13:30-14:30, MS Teams (online).

Research group links

Research interests

I consider myself a critical military sociologist whose core interests lie in civil-military relations, war preparations, military organisations and military personnel issues. I am particularly interested in the way military personnel make sense of their military life experiences (combat, non- and post-combat) and in the way their attitudes and beliefs vis-a-vis the people they work with (e.g., their comrades, allied and indegenous armed and civilian forces), operate and live amongst (e.g., civilian populations) and rely on (e.g. their families, spouse and friends), affect their behaviours.

My research and teaching interests comprise, amongst other things, warfare, miliyarised policing, critical military studies, civil-military relations, institutional innovation and transformation, contemporary security issues. 

PhD candidates interested in working with Dr Catignani in his areas of research expertise/interest are welcome to get in touch. 

Research-related Grants and Awards

  • “Sustaining Future Reserves 2020: Assessing Organizational Commitment in the Reserves”. ESRC Grant (co-funded by the British Army and Ministry of Defence), 1 September 2014-31 August 2018 (0.4 FTE), £299,911.
  • “European Defence in an Age of Austerity” Strategy & Security Institute Workshop, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 3-5 April 2014, €4,500.
  • “Military Adaptation and the Afghan Insurgency”, Research Fellowship, The Leverhulme Trust, Principal Investigator, 1 September 2010-31 August 2011, £42,593.
  • Early Career Fellowship, The Leverhulme Trust (June 2009), Principal Investigator, £96,000 (declined due to offer of permanent employment from the University of Sussex).
  • Visiting Fellowship Grant, Institute for National Security Studies/Jaffee Center, Tel Aviv University, June-Aug. 2008, $20,000.
  • Max Weber Post-Doctoral Fellowship, European University Institute, Florence, 1 September 2007-31 August 2008, € 26,400.
  • Winner, Third Annual Dissertation Award, Committee for the Analysis of Military Operations and Strategy – American Political Science Association, Chicago, September 2007.
  • Summer Workshop for the Analysis of Military Operations & Strategy Grant, Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, Columbia University, 2006, US$3,500.
  • “Leadership in Low-Intensity Conflicts”, Canadian Defence Academy Research Grant, 2004, CDN$3,000.
  • School of Social Science and Public Policy PhD Studentship, King’s College London, 1 October 2001-31 September 2003, £40,800.

Research supervision

Dr Catignani's research interests comprise, amongst other things, military sociology, critical military studies, civil-military relations, institutional innovation and transformation, contemporary security issues (esp. insurgency and stabilization operations and military humanitarian interventions, the militarisation of counter-narcotics and policing within urban spaces), and gendered perspectives on security, military personnel and family issues.

He is happy to supervise in the above areas.

Research students

First Supervisor


  1. Mr Bashir Bala, (FT, 2020-2024), MPhil/DPhil Title: "The Role of the Armed Forces of Nigeria in Providing Security Support to Transnational Oil Companies and its Effect on Nigeria's Defence and Security". Funded by the Nigerian Petroleum Development Fund. Co-supervisor: Dr Elena Gadjanova.
  2. Mr Tarik Solmaz, (FT, 2019-2023), MPhil/DPhil Title: "Differentiating State and Non-State Hybrid Warfare: Similar but not the same". Funded by the Turkish Ministry of Education. Co-supervisor: Dr Brieg Powel.
  3. Lt Col John Bailey (PT, 2016-28).  MPhil/DPhil.  Title:  "Translating  Fighting  Power:  The  Utility  of Social  Science  in  Enhancing  Military  Capacity  Building  Programmes  in  an  Era  of  Persistent Engagement". Funded by the UK Ministry of Defence’s Higher Defence Studies Programme.Co-supervisor: Dr Klejda Mulaj.


  1. Capt.  Mike Crofts (PT, 2014-2016).  MA by Research. "How can adherence to International Law be better encouraged during Security Sector Reform? An analysis of the British Army’s professionalisation of indigenous forces". Awarded on 2 June 2016.
  2. Mr.  Tobias Ruettershoff (FT, 2013-2016).  DPhil.  Title: "Expert  Knowledge  Production  in  US Military  Campaigns:  The  Case  of  the  Philippines,  Vietnam  and  Iraq".  Funded by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Germany. Awarded on 5 April 2016.
  3. Mr. Alex Neads (FT, 2013-2017). DPhil. Title: "Military Capacity Building: The Dilemmas of Building Other States’ Armies". Co-funded by Babcock International Group, UK and the College of Social and International Studies, University of Exeter. Awarded on 23 January 2017.
  4. Mr Gareth Hicks (PT, 2018-2020). MA by Research. Title: "The Arab Way of Warfare". Self-funded. Co-supervisor: Dr Brieg Powel. Awarded on 9 November 2021.

Other information

  • External Examiner, MA in International Affairs, King's College London, October 2018-October 2022.
  • External Examiner, MLitt in Terrorism Studies, St Andrews University, October 2016-January 2021.
  • Research Grant Proposal Reviewer, Humanities & Social Science Panel, Israel Science Foundation.
  • Monograph Reviewer, Cornell University Press; Routledge Middle Eastern Military Studies Series.
  • Article Referee, Critical Military Studies, International Feminist Journal of Politics, Defence Studies, Terrorism and Political Violence, Journal of Strategic Studies, International Affairs, Security Studies, European Journal of International Relations, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 

External impact and engagement

  • Presented interim ESRC project findings at the ‘Sustaining Future Reserves 2020’ takeholder Symposium, Royal United Services Institute, London.  Around 60 senior military and MOD staff,  industry  stakeholders  as  well  as  MPs  attended (26 May 2016).
  • Academic  Advisor  on  the  “Future  Land  Operating  Concept”,  Development,  Concepts  and Doctrine Centre, British Ministry of Defence (2011-2013).
  • Counterinsurgency Post-Deployment Advisor to the 3rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 101st Infantry Division, U.S. Army (February 2011).
  • Invited expert, NATO  Transatlantic  Opinion  Leaders  Tour  in  Afghanistan,  a  10-day  study  trip involving visits to NATO HQ Brussels, HQ ISAF, GiROA and Helmand Province governmental institutions, various ISAF bases and areas of operation in RC-Southwest (October 2011).
  • Invited academic presenter at “Exercise Agile Warrior and the Future Development of UK Land Forces” RUSI workshop, Force Development & Training Command-Land, (January 2011).
  • Counterinsurgency Pre-Deployment Advisor to the 101st Logistics Brigade, British Army (October 2010).
  • Counterinsurgency Pre-Deployment Advisor to the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army (January-February 2009). 


Prior to joining the University of Exeter in 2013, Dr Catignani was a Lecturer in Strategic and Security Studies in the Department of International Relations, University of Sussex (2009-2013), Assistant Professor in International Security in the Political Institute, Leiden University (2008-2009), Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute Florence (2007-2008), and Lecturer in War Studies in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London (2005-2007).

In his free time, Dr Catignani enjoys spending time with his wife, two sons and daughter, rambling along the British coast or countryside with their English cocker spaniels by their side.

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