n Conflict Trends - Current discourse on the role of women in conflict prevention and conflict transformation : a critique

Volume 2003, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1561-9818


Much of the recent discourse surrounding the role of women in conflict prevention and conflict transformation is shot through with contradictory assumptions used as the basis for the argument that women should play a greater role, that women's voices should be heard more, and so on, in these processes. While the desire for a more humane politics, for the insertion of the legitimacy of emotions and an ethic of care into our deliberations about the causes of conflict and its possible resolution, is to be welcomed, we need to theorise with greater care why we associate these positive social goods with women and what we mean when we talk about 'women'. We need also to look at the implications of doing so and to ask ourselves why these values have been marginalised in the first instance. Calls for conflict prevention strategies to take into account a 'gendered perspective' (and what is usually meant here is a 'women's perspective' rather than a gender perspective) lack a clear theoretical grounding and have become a somewhat hollow talisman whose real meaning is unclear. Constantly repeating the refrain of the absence of a 'woman's perspective' tells us little about what such a perspective might be and is falsely universalising in its premise. These calls draw from a variety of conflicting theoretical trends ranging from liberal pluralism through to standpoint feminism. What they fail to do is to take into account the post-structuralist critique of such perspectives which denies the unitary subject of both liberal and feminist accounts.

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