Service, Sex, and Security: Gendered Peacekeeping Economies in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo


Jennings, Kathleen M. 2014. “Service, Sex, and Security: Gendered Peacekeeping Economies in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” Security Dialogue 45 (4): 313-30. doi:10.1177/0967010614537330.

Author: Kathleen M. Jennings


This article uses the concept of the peacekeeping economy to examine how peacekeepers – as individuals – and peacekeeping – as a complex of institutions, policy and practice – interact with, and inevitably shape, the societies in which they operate. It focuses on how peacekeeping economies are gendered, and the implications of this gendering. The article first examines three types of work characteristic of the peacekeeping economies in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – namely domestic service, sex work, and private security. The United Nation’s (UN’s) institutional responses to these sectors demonstrates the persistence of ‘traditional’ gendered ideologies in peacekeeping, in which the ‘private’, feminized sphere of the home – encompassing peacekeepers’ domestic and sexual arrangements – is marginalized, while the masculinized realm of security is prioritized and closely regulated. Furthermore, factoring in peacekeepers’ individual responses to service, sex, and security reveals a counter-narrative of the peacekeeper-as-vulnerable. This counter-narrative helps obscure the potential for exploitation of locals by peacekeepers. Yet it also upsets the subject position of both the peacekeeper and ‘the local’ in an unexpected manner, ultimately undermining the notion of the (masculine) UN protector. Such an understanding complicates popular notions of how gender ‘works’ in peacekeeping sites, and enables insights into the ramifications of peacekeeping’s (often) self-imposed limitations.

Topics: Economies, Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, International Organizations, Peacekeeping, Security, Sexual Violence, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Regions: Africa, Central Africa, West Africa Countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia

Year: 2014

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