International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Simona Sharoni, Julia Welland, Linda Steiner and Jennifer Pedersen
Chapter 7: Gender and terrorism
This chapter articulates how the gendered and raced notions embedded within the ‘Westphalian narrative’ inhibit our ability to understand terrorism and political violence. The Westphalian narrative makes the (Western) state a masculine exemplar, embodying rationality, autonomy and legitimate violence in opposition to the feminized, irrational and illegitimate non-state politically violent groups. Within the war on terrorism, this gendered hierarchy intersects with race in neo-Orientalism, further delegitimizing the identity of those associated with radical Islam and, convolutedly, all of Islam. This gendered and raced binary of legitimacy and illegitimacy filters further down in Terrorism Studies’ discursive constructions of terrorist organizations. Terrorism Studies’ language argues that terrorists should be seen as rational and thus credible actors (even if their violence is extranormative and illegitimate), yet the discourse reveals the limits of this imbued rationality. Finally, this impacts how we perceive the individuals who employ political violence. Thus, how terrorism is perceived is dependent upon the gender hierarchy implicit in the Westphalian system.
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