Peacekeepers as New Men? Security and Masculinity in the United Nations Mission in Liberia


Sanghera, Gurchaten, Marsha Henry, and Paul Higate. 2008. “Peacekeepers as New Men? Security and Masculinity in the United Nations Mission in Liberia.” SPAIS Working paper 02-08, School of Sociology, Politics, and International Studies, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom.

Authors: Gurchaten Sanghera , Marsha Henry, Paul Higate


Drawing on a small scale qualitative study of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), this paper provides an insight into the ways in which those who work and live in this post- conflict site made sense of the styles of security provided by male peacekeepers. Interview material was subject to analyses through the gendered lens in ways that sought to examine the extent to which male peacekeepers were seen as derivatives of the ‘New Man’ on account of their dominant representation as ‘soft warrior’ in UN and other imagery. A three stage typology was developed from the data including the ‘hard (traditional) warrior’, the ‘soft warrior/humanitarian’ and the ‘peacekeeper as New Man’. Our findings suggested that national contingent identity shaped participant understandings of the gendered styles of peacekeepers security practices to which they were subject. Here, Nigerian troops of the previous ECOMOG presence were seen as ‘hard men’, Bangladeshi troops were considered as somewhat ‘weak’ or ‘soft’ and Swedish and Irish contingent personnel were framed as ‘fair’ and ‘professional’. In conclusion we argue that different styles of peacekeeping articulated at a national level find expression ‘on-the-ground’, as they converge with national stereotypes held by participants. In this way perceptions of national identity arose at the interface of (1) national-domestic approaches to peacekeeping (2) observable security practice and (3) imaginings of particular peacekeeper masculinities. In turn these gave rise to the content and form of national stereotypes through which male peacekeepers masculinised identities were perceived to shape the provision of a variety of securities.

Topics: Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Humanitarian Assistance, International Organizations, Peacekeeping, Post-Conflict, Security Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Liberia

Year: 2008

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