Maternal Thinking and the Politics of War


Scheper‐Hughes, Nancy. 1996. “Maternal Thinking and the Politics of War.” Peace Review 8 (3): 353–58. 

Author: Nancy Scheper‐Hughes


Conventional ways of thinking about the gender of war and peace center on the too‐comfortable view of women—and especially mothers—as embedded in particular ways of being‐in‐the‐world that presumably make them resistant to wars and receptive to peacekeeping. Yet in many cases, this theory doesn't hold true. Instead, aspects of the experience of mothering—especially under conditions of scarcity, famine, oppression, and political disruption—can both instruct and allow women to readily surrender their sons (and their husbands) to war, violence, and death. There's a maternal ethos of “acceptable death” without which political violence and wars of all kinds would not be possible.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Peacekeeping, Political Economies

Year: 1996

© 2023 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