Colonels & Cadres: War & Gender in South Africa


Cock, Jacklyn. 1991. Colonels & Cadres: War & Gender in South Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Author: Jacklyn Cock


Why, given that most people have a strong impulse for self preservation, do individuals fight wars? Jacklyn Cock believes that the answer lies in gender relations, in particular the way in which femininity and masculinity are defined, and the power of the military in society. Nothing throws the question of gender into sharper relief than does war. War does not challenge women to prove that they are women, whereas combat is seen so often as the proof of 'manliness'. In Colonels and Cadres, Jacklyn Cock explores the link between war and gender in a specific society and period - South Africa in the 1980s. She documents interviews with victims of the violence, resisters and militarists - colonels and soldiers in the South African Defence Force (SADF), and cadres in the ANC's Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). Their fascinating and sometimes horrifying reports provide unsettling insights into the nature of war and its effects on individuals and society, revealing that, although the SADF and MK reflect all the myriad differences between a conventional and a guerrilla army, women in both armies have been the subject of similar processes of incorporation and exclusion. As provocative and well-written as her book Maids and Madams, Jacklyn Cock's Colonels and Cadres is gripping reading, both for the haunting personal accounts and the clearly articulated analysis of the issues involved.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Femininity/ies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 1991

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