Muscular Interventionism: Gender, Power and Liberal Peacebuilding in Post-Conflict Bosnia-Herzegovina


O’Reilly, Maria. 2012. “Muscular Interventionism: Gender, Power and Liberal Peacebuilding in Post-Conflict Bosnia-Herzegovina.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 14 (4): 529–48. doi:10.1080/14616742.2012.726096.

Author: Maria O'Reilley


This article highlights the centrality of gender to the liberal peacebuilding agenda in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It examines the discourses and practices of liberal interventionism, focusing on the Office of the High Representative (OHR) as a crucial site for the constitution of gendered subjects and agents in this post-conflict zone. Drawing on poststructural theories and representations of Balkan identity, it explores the gendered articulations of Paddy Ashdown, first during his wartime visits to Bosnia-Herzegovina, and second, during his tenure as High Representative. A discourse-theoretical analysis highlights how Ashdown rationalized his involvement in wartime Bosnia-Herzegovina through a powerful self-identification with an ‘interventionist model of masculinity’ which equates manliness with a responsibility to protect a vulnerable/backward/feminized Balkan ‘other’ from violence and harm. Moreover, gendered discourses helped to conceptualize and legitimate the peace implementation role of the OHR, allowing the organization to position coercive strategies and policies as appropriate and necessary for creating sustainable peace. Overall, this article highlights how gender is mobilized to promote and impose liberal policies and norms, with significant implications for the quality of peace being (re)constructed.

Keywords: Balkanism, Bosnia, dicourse, gender, identity, liberal peace, masculinities, peacebuilding, statebuilding

Topics: Democracy / Democratization, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, International Organizations, Peacebuilding, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction Regions: Europe, Balkans, Eastern Europe Countries: Bosnia & Herzegovina

Year: 2012

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