Table of Contents

Handbook on Gender and War

Handbook on Gender and War

International Handbooks on Gender series

Edited by Simona Sharoni, Julia Welland, Linda Steiner and Jennifer Pedersen

Gender and war are in many ways inextricably linked, and this path-breaking Handbook systematically examines the major issues surrounding this relationship. Each of its four sections covers a distinct phase of war: gender and opposition to war; gender and the conduct of war; gender and the impact of war; and gender and the aftermath of war. Original contributions from an international group of leading experts make use of a range of historical and contemporary examples to interrogate the multi-faceted connection between gender and war.

Chapter 2: On the imagination of ‘Woman’ as killer in war

Linda Åhäll

Subjects: politics and public policy, international politics, terrorism and security


This chapter problematizes the increased visibility of women’s agency in warfare by approaching an uncomfortable border crossing: it explores how the idea of ‘woman’ is written within and beyond the border of the subject-position of ‘being a killer’ in war. The chapter uses scenes from the Hollywood blockbuster Zero Dark Thirty and justifications for the keeping of the British ban on women in combat roles in 2010, despite a review indicating that the ban itself might be counterproductive, as illustrative examples of how the writing of ‘woman’ through the subject-position of ‘being a killer’ (or not) is a boundary-making practice constitutive of broader cultural understandings of gender. The chapter argues that in order to understand how gender works in the conduct of war we need to remain vigilant for the hidden politics, the silences and gaps involved in how gender acts as a border agent, how it exposes tensions and creates ruptures in that which is deemed natural or common sense. We need to remain feminist curious and think about gender as a logic of the everyday, fundamental to how the conduct of war is understood and performed.

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