Universalized Categories, Dissonant Realities: Gendering Postconflict Reconstruction in Nepal


Ramnarain, Smita. 2015. “Universalized Categories, Dissonant Realities: Gendering Postconflict Reconstruction in Nepal.” Gender, Place & Culture 22 (9): 1305–22. doi:10.1080/0966369X.2014.958062.


Author: Smita Ramnarain


International agencies, nongovernmental organizations, governmental agencies, and development policy-makers have sought to incorporate ‘gender mainstreaming’ into postconflict policies and programs in an effort to ameliorate the unequal gender impacts of war. This article uses narratives of widow heads of household collected through field research in Nepal in 2008 and 2011 to illustrate how postconflict development discourses purporting to engage with gender not only take a narrow view of gender (i.e., by equating it to women-focused activities), but also neglect the complex and dynamic realities of women's lives. Postconflict interventions employ simplistic assumptions that neglect gender-specific postconflict insecurities and oppressions (such as systematic violence against women). By neglecting the crucial significance of social networks for widows' survival, postconflict reconstruction assumes women to be individualized receptacles for development/empowerment. The crucial role of social networks in constraining women's agency is obscured. At the same time, assumptions of homogeneity ingrained in universalized categories such as ‘widow’ and ‘conflict-affected’ obfuscate women's multiple identities, roles, and agency in their struggles for survival. The insights emerging from field research suggest a greater attunement of postconflict development interventions to women's lived experiences and social settings.

Keywords: gender, violent conflict, reconstruction, widow heads, Nepal, qualitative research

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Gender Mainstreaming, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Violence Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Nepal

Year: 2015

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