International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Simona Sharoni, Julia Welland, Linda Steiner and Jennifer Pedersen
Chapter 4: Cat food and clients: gendering the politics of protection in the Private Militarized Securitized Company
Drawing on Judith Hicks Stiehm’s article ‘The protected, the protected, the defender’ and based on ethnographic field-research, this chapter considers the gendered and classed aspects of bodyguard/client interactions in a private security company in Kabul, Afghanistan. Foregrounding the ‘cat food run’ which refers to the request by one female client that her bodyguard drive her across the city to buy cat food for malnourished cats living on the compound where she was based, the chapter reveals some of the ways in which the narrative of risk and danger was negotiated between the two parties. This process of negotiation troubles the protector/protected binary where the former exercises power over the latter in a straightforward manner. Here, security expertise is usurped by the superior class position of the client such that the former military status of the bodyguard is treated with relative disdain to the annoyance of these alleged security experts. In summary, the chapter highlights how class and gender can confer authority on those whose safety is entrusted to others who, while embodying knowledge about risk and danger, are in the final analysis service providers in one particular element of the market for force.
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