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Female Combatants

Between Amazons and Sabines: A Historical Approach to Women and War


Herrmann, Irène, and Daniel Palmieri. 2010. “Between Amazons and Sabines: A Historical Approach to Women and War.” International Committee of the Red Cross 92 (877): 19–30.

Authors: Irène Herrmann, Daniel Palmieri


Today, war is still perceived as being the prerogative of men only. Women are generally excluded from the debate on belligerence, except as passive victims of the brutality inflicted on them by their masculine contemporaries. Yet history shows that through the ages, women have also played a role in armed hostilities, and have sometimes even been the main protagonists. In the present article, the long history and the multiple facets of women’s involvement in war are recounted from two angles: women at war (participating in war) and women in war (affected by war). The merit of a gender based division of roles in war is then examined with reference to the ancestral practice of armed violence.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Gender Roles

Year: 2010

Muscular Nationalism: Gender, Violence, and Empire in India and Ireland, 1914-2004


Banerjee, Sikata. 2012. Muscular Nationalism: Gender, Violence, and Empire in India and Ireland, 1914-2004. Gender and Political Violence. New York: New York University Press.

Author: Sikata Banerjee


A particular dark triumph of modern nationalism has been its ability to persuade citizens to sacrifice their lives for a political vision forged by emotional ties to a common identity. Both men and women can respond to nationalistic calls to fight that portray muscular warriors defending their nation against an easily recognizable enemy. This “us versus them” mentality can be seen in sectarian violence between Hindus and Muslims, Tamils and Sinhalas, Serbs and Kosovars, and Protestants and Catholics. In Muscular Nationalism, Sikata Banerjee takes a comparative look at India and Ireland and the relationship among gender, violence, and nationalism. Exploring key texts and events from 1914-2004, Banerjee explores how women negotiate “muscular nationalisms” as they seek to be recognized as legitimate nationalists and equal stakeholders in their national struggles. 
Banerjee argues that the gendered manner in which dominant nationalism has been imagined in most states in the world has had important implications for women’s lived experiences. Drawing on a specific intersection of gender and nationalism, she discusses the manner in which women negotiate a political and social terrain infused with a masculinized dream of nation-building. India and Ireland—two states shaped by the legacy of British imperialism and forced to deal with modern political/social conflict centering on competing nationalisms—provide two provocative case studies that illuminate the complex interaction between gender and nation.
(New York University Press)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Masculinity/ies, Nationalism, Political Participation, Violence Regions: Asia, South Asia, Europe, Western Europe Countries: India, Ireland

Year: 2012

Landscapes of Belonging: Female Ex-Combatants Remembering the Liberation Struggle in Urban Maputo


Katto, Jonna. 2014. “Landscapes of Belonging: Female Ex-Combatants Remembering the Liberation Struggle in Urban Maputo.” Journal of Southern African Studies 40 (3): 539–57. doi:10.1080/03057070.2014.909256.

Author: Jonna Katto


Mozambique's liberation struggle was fought mostly on the terrain of the northern provinces of Cabo Delgado, Niassa and Tete. Yet, though the rural landscapes of northern Mozambique are intrinsically tied to the country's national history, the public commemoration of the struggle in the present-day context is a state-led narrative more closely linked to the urban experience of the predominantly male political elite. In this article, I explore how female veterans living in the national capital, Maputo, in southern Mozambique, conceptualise national space and belonging, and construct its gendered meanings. Though significant numbers of girls and women were mobilised by the FRELIMO guerrilla army to fight in the struggle, to date little research exists on women's accounts of their experience. This article is based on life-history interviews conducted in Maputo with female war veterans in 2009 and 2011. On the one hand, I show how the abstract space of the nation is made sense of and personalised through the women's experience of the liberation struggle, and further juxtaposed with their current experience of the cityscape. On the other hand, I discuss how the capital city as the spatio-temporal location of the ‘history-telling event’ continues to shape the memory of the liberation struggle, contributing to the enactment of a particular gendered spatiality of belonging.

Topics: Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Mozambique

Year: 2014

“We are trained to be married!” Elite Formation and Ideology in the “girls’ battalion” of the Sudan People's Liberation Army


Pinaud, Clémence. 2015. “‘We Are Trained to Be Married!’ Elite Formation and Ideology in the ‘girls’ Battalion’ of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.” Journal of Eastern African Studies 9 (3): 375–93. doi:10.1080/17531055.2015.1091638.

Author: Clémence Pinaud


Women have supported, willingly or not, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army’s (SPLA) struggle of 22 years that led to the country’s independence in 2011 as part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. This article explains the movement’s relationship to women by contrasting it with other examples of guerilla armies in sub-Saharan Africa at the time. It highlights the lack of ideological depth of the movement from its inception, and dissects the many roots behind the rank-and-file and the population’s hostility toward women’s fighting. It analyzes the reasons behind the creation of the only “Girls’ battalion”, Ketiba Banat, which became an incubator for the creation of a new female elite and fulfilled political and social functions during the 22 years struggle. It also depicts other groups of women who joined the SPLA and were militarily trained outside of Ketiba Banat. Women’s engagement was socially stratified during the war and membership to Ketiba Banat became an engine for increased social differentiation during the war and even more so afterwards. The women who were trained in other battalions but found themselves excluded from post-war neo-patrimonial networks, share the same frustrations as those in other African post-conflict contexts.

Keywords: South Sudan, Sudan People's Liberation Army, women, fighters, soldiers, war, marriage

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women Regions: Africa, East Africa

Year: 2015

Interdependent Preferences, Militarism, and Child Gender


Urbatsch, R. “Interdependent Preferences, Militarism, and Child Gender.” International Studies Quarterly 53, no. 1 (March 1, 2009): 1–21. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2478.2008.01521.x.

Author: R. Urbatsch


Selection effects make it difficult to determine whether concern for other people genuinely affects individuals’ policy preferences. Child gender provides a conveniently exogenous means of exploring the issue, especially in contexts such as military policy where girls and boys face different risks; in many countries male children are disproportionately likely to become soldiers and thus bear the costs of militarism. This creates divergent effects: those in households with girls generally prefer more hawkish foreign policies than do members of households with boys. Data from the 2004 American National Election Study confirm these intuitions, both in general statements of policy preference and in evaluating the net costs of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Child Soldiers, Female Combatants, Male Combatants, Gender, Girls, Boys, Gender Balance, Elections, Households Regions: Americas, North America Countries: United States of America

Year: 2009

'Living in a Movie’ — Israeli Women Combatants in Conflict Zones


Tekoah, Shir Daphna, and Ayelet Harel-Shalev. 2014. “‘Living in a Movie’ — Israeli Women Combatants in Conflict Zones.” Women’s Studies International Forum 44 (May): 26–34. doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2014.03.002.


Authors: Shir Daphna Tekoah, Ayelet Harel-Shalev


This study utilizes two different qualitative analysis techniques to explore the experiences of women who served as combatants or in combat support roles in conflict zones. By using data analysis techniques such as the “listening guide” and content theme analysis, the study uncovers the experiences that this specific group undergoes, while exposing their dilemmas and thoughts. This research investigates how military service in conflict zones impacts the psychological, physical, and emotional wellbeing of female combatants. Twenty female Israeli veterans between the ages of 21 and 30 who served in the Israeli Defense Forces in the Occupied Territories (the West Bank and Gaza) were interviewed for this study. The findings suggest that although the combatants actively served by choice in high-status positions, they applied a dissociation mechanism in order to survive the traumatic and complex reality of their service. This study offers a unique, multilayered analysis of these women combatants' voices.

Topics: Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Health, Mental Health, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East Countries: Israel, Palestine / Occupied Palestinian Territories

Year: 2014

Gendering Combat: Military Women’s Status in Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union during the Second World War


Fieseler, Beate, M. Michaela Hampf, and Jutta Schwarzkopf. 2014. “Gendering Combat: Military Women’s Status in Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union during the Second World War.” Women’s Studies International Forum 47, Part A (November): 115–26. doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2014.06.011.


Authors: Beate Fieseler, M. Michaela Hampf, Jutta Schwarzkopf


The militarization of women during the Second World War, unprecedented in both quantitative and qualitative terms, has been accounted for variously, though unsatisfactorily, with regard to the impact on the warring nations' gender order. Using national variations in the accessibility of combat functions to women, the degree of pressure exerted on a given war-time society's gender order is explored by comparing Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union, which differ markedly regarding both the military exigencies placed upon them and the degree of female militarization adopted. The comparative perspective reveals differences in what dimensions are perceived as problematic in the relation of gender and combat and what are the conditions shaping this perception. Secondly, the conditions become apparent under which combat functions are made available to women, and thirdly, the long-term effects of the reconfiguration of the gender order under war-time conditions can be explored.

Topics: Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries

Year: 2014

Sexing War/Policing Gender: Motherhood, Myth and Women’s Political Violence


Ahäll, Linda. 2015. Sexing War/Policing Gender: Motherhood, Myth and Women’s Political Violence. Abingdon, Oxon; New York, NY: Routledge. 


Author: Linda Ahäll


"Historically, there has been reluctance, from mainstream IR scholars as well as feminists, to seriously engage with women's agency in warfare. Instead, scholarship has tended to focus on women's activism for peace or to ignore women's agency altogether. This book rectifies this omission by exploring the cultural understanding of actors, agents and structures of war and how can we make sense of attitudes towards women, agency and war today." (From WorldCat)

Topics: Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Violence

Year: 2015

Women and Militant Wars: The Politics of Injury


Parashar, Swati. 2014. Women and Militant Wars: The Politics of Injury. War, Politics and Experience. London & New York: Routledge.

Author: Swati Parashar


This book explores women’s militant activities in insurgent wars and seeks to understand what women ‘do’ in wars.
In International Relations, inter-state conflict, anti-state armed insurgency and armed militancy are essentially seen as wars where collective violence (against civilians and security forces) is used to achieve political objectives. Extending the notion of war as ‘politics of injury' to the armed militancy in Indian administered Kashmir and the Tamil armed insurgency in Sri Lanka, this book explores how women participate in militant wars, and how that politics not only shapes the gendered understandings of women’s identities and bodies but is in turn shaped by them.
The case studies discussed in the book offer new comparative insight into two different and most prevalent forms of insurgent wars today: religio-political and ethno-nationalist. Empirical analyses of women’s roles in the Sri Lankan Tamil militant group, the LTTE and the logistical, ideological support women provide to militant groups active in Indian administered Kashmir suggest that these insurgent wars have their own gender dynamics in recruitment and operational strategies. Thus, Women and Militant Wars provides an excellent insight into the gender politics of these insurgencies and women’s roles and experiences within them.
This book will be of much interest to students and scholars of critical war and security studies, feminist international relations, gender studies, terrorism and political violence, South Asia studies and IR in general.

Keywords: politics & international relations, asian politics, South Asian politics, military & strategic studies, security studies, terrorism, war & conflict studies, social sciences, gender studies

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Ethnicity, Gender, Women, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Militarism, Religion, Security, Terrorism Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Sri Lanka

Year: 2014

Where Women Rebel: Patterns of Women’s Participation in Armed Rebel Groups 1990-2008


Henshaw, Alexis Leanna. 2016. Where Women Rebel: Patterns of Women’s Participation in Armed Rebel Groups 1990-2008.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 18 (1): 39–60. doi:10.1080/14616742.2015.1007729.

Author: Alexis Leanna Henshaw


While a significant literature on women's participation in armed rebel groups exists, much of this work is focused on individual cases or regional comparisons among movements. This has led to a lack of cross-national work on women in insurgencies, and a limited understanding of the extent to which women are engaged in civil conflict internationally. This article introduces new data on women's involvement in seventy-two insurgencies active since 1990, and assesses the validity of several assumptions about women and rebellion drawn from existing literature on women in conflict and on civil wars generally. I show that women are active in rebel groups much more often than current scholarship acknowledges. This involvement includes frequent service in combat and leadership roles, where male participants are often presumed to be the default. Finally, while forced recruitment tactics are frequently used to bring women into service, much of their participation appears to be voluntary in nature.

Keywords: gender, civil conflict, terrorism, insurgency

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Livelihoods, Militarized livelihoods, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Militias, Paramilitaries, Non-state Armed Groups, Terrorism

Year: 2016


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