Motherhood and War : Gender, Agency and Political Violence
Historically, there has been reluctance, from mainstream IR scholars as well as feminists, to seriously engage with women’s agency in warfare. Instead, scholarship has tended to focus on women’s activism for peace or to ignore women’s agency altogether. Recently, a growing strand of literature has problematised the common representation of women as victims only during conflict, however, most of this literature focuses on a definition of agency linked to political subjectivity, how individuals act.
Instead, following Butler’s understanding of agency, this book analyses how agency is represented through discourses which produce subjects, not individuals. In other words, the subject position of ‘female’ in discourses of political violence and the representations of agency held by that subject constitutes the scope for analysis. Perhaps most importantly, whereas most of the existing literature on female agency in political violence tends to focus on narratives, this volume does not distinguish between different forms of representations but instead focuses on visual representations and the use of popular culture as data for analysis. As a result, the empirical cases analysed in this book consist of three ‘real’ and three fictional cases ( Faye Turney, Lynndie England, Janis Karpinski, Britz, Female Agents and The BaaderBook Meinhof Complex ) in order to emphasise that both types are representations of events and, thus, that both are part of story-telling and how the political is culturally understood.
By using a poststructuralist feminist perspective and by analysing empirical cases from a Western ‘war on terror’ cultural context, Ahall seeks to demonstrate that motherhood is not simply a discourse denying women agency in political violence, but also central as to how agency in political violence is enabled. Motherhood and maternalism is ‘everywhere’ in war stories and, consequently, instrumental in order to understand how representations of female agency in political violence are gendered. This work will be of interest to students and scholars in areas such as gender, political violence and international relations.