The Dark Underbelly of Land Struggles: The Instrumentalization of Female Activism and Emotional Resistance in Cambodia

Citation:

Hennings, Anne. 2019. “The Dark Underbelly of Land Struggles: The Instrumentalization of Female Activism and Emotional Resistance in Cambodia.” Critical Asian Studies 51 (1): 103–19.

Author: Anne Hennings

Abstract:

Facing land grabs and eviction in the name of development, women worldwide increasingly join land rights struggles despite often deeply engrained images of female domesticity and conventional gender norms. Yet, the literature on female agency in the context of land struggles has remained largely underexplored. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, my findings suggest that land rights activism in Cambodia has undergone a gendered re-framing process. Reasoning that women use non-violent means of contestation and are less prone to violence from security personnel, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) push women affected by land grabs and eviction to the frontline of protests. Moreover, female activists are encouraged to publicly display emotions, such as the experienced pain behavior that sharply contrasts with Cambodian norms of feminine modesty. I critically question this women-to-the-front strategy and, drawing on Sara Ahmed’s politics of emotions approach, show the adverse risks for female activists. Furthermore, I demonstrate that the instrumentalization of female bodies and emotions in land rights protests perpetuate gender disparities instead of strengthening female agency in the Cambodian society and opening up political space for women.

Keywords: dispossession, land grabbing, gendered eviction, politics of emotion, Cambodia

Topics: Civil Society, Gender, Land grabbing, NGOs, Nonviolence, Political Participation, Rights, Land Rights Regions: Asia, Southeast Asia Countries: Cambodia

Year: 2019

© 2020 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.