Motherhood, Myth and Gendered Agency in Political Violence


Åhäll, Linda. 2012. “Motherhood, Myth and Gendered Agency in Political Violence.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 14 (1): 103–20. doi:10.1080/14616742.2011.619781.

Author: Linda Åhäll


By building on theoretical insights from poststructuralist feminism and Roland Barthes' mythology framework, this article is offering a nuanced understanding of female agency in political violence by engaging with the visual and the cultural, by using a broader definition of agency in political violence and by analysing what gendered representations of war mean at the domestic level. In the first part of the article, the Myth of Motherhood is conceptualized as a meta-discourse disciplining representations of female agency in political violence. The article then focuses on two specific discourses within the meta-discourse, the Vacant Womb and the Deviant Womb, that inform understandings of gender, agency and political violence in one particular cultural artefact: the British television drama, Britz. The main argument is that motherhood is ‘everywhere’ in representations of female agency in political violence and that it is useful to think about motherhood as a myth. Only this way can we confront underlying norms, values and ideas believed to be common sense and think differently about gender, agency and political violence.

Keywords: gender, agency, political violence, motherhood, feminism, popular culture

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Femininity/ies, Violence

Year: 2012

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