Gendering Nuclear Disarmament: Identity and Disarmament in Sweden during the Cold War


Rosengren, Emma. 2020. “Gendering Nuclear Disarmament: Identity and Disarmament in Sweden during the Cold War.” PhD diss., Stockholm University.

Author: Emma Rosengren


This dissertation provides new knowledge about gender, nuclear weapons and disarmament. Previous feminist research has shown that in contexts where positive associations are made between military strength, masculinity and nuclear weapon possession, it is hard to imagine nuclear renunciation and disarmament as anything other than potential emasculation or feminization. Meanwhile, empirically based feminist theorization about gender, nuclear renunciation and disarmament remains a blind spot. This dissertation uses Sweden as a case to analyze nuclear weapon renunciation and disarmament from a feminist angle. As one of the countries that had the opportunity to acquire nuclear weapons – and considered doing so for some time – before deciding to become engaged with international disarmament aims instead, Sweden is an interesting case to study. The empirical focus is on disarmament policymaking in relation to the Swedish nuclear weapon debate (1954–1968) and the submarine crisis (1981–1989). The study draws on a broad set of primary sources, ranging from government speeches and parliamentary records to media output including comics and personal correspondence and diaries. Approaching the nuclear weapon debate and the submarine crisis as arenas for debating disarmament policy, and understanding disarmament policymaking as historically situated and marked by gendered, nationalized and sexualized power structures in specific contexts, the dissertation contributes empirical and theoretical insights relevant to feminist IR theory, and to nuclear history and IR studies more broadly. Contrary to previous feminist theorizing about disarmament as associated with femininity and/or emasculation, my findings suggest that Swedish disarmament policy was co-constructed with certain forms of masculinity, and that alternative policy discourses and identity representations were feminized and sidelined to the margins. The dissertation suggests that rather than assuming preconceived linkages between nuclear weapons possession and masculinity on the one hand, and disarmament and femininity on the other, it is necessary to challenge such binary conceptualizations and investigate how masculinities and femininities, and nuclear weapon and disarmament policy, have been co-constructed in specific historical contexts. The opposite, to depart from preconceived conceptualizations about gender and policy not only contributes to the reconstruction of gender, but also rules out alternatives to nuclearized security strategies and nuclearized masculinity. The dissertation provides a methodological and theoretical framework for further research on the making of disarmament policy from a feminist perspective.

Keywords: feminist theory, nuclear disarmament, nuclear weapons, gender nation sexuality, dentity and policy, identity and policy

Topics: Gender, Femininity/ies, Gender Analysis, Masculinity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Peace and Security, Weapons /Arms, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Countries: Sweden

Year: 2020

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