Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States
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Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States

Edited by Graham K. Brown and Arnim Langer

The Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States brings together contributions from a multidisciplinary group of internationally renowned scholars on such important issues as the causes of violent conflicts and state fragility, the challenges of conflict resolution and mediation, and the obstacles to post-conflict reconstruction and durable peace-building.
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Chapter 28: Gendering violent conflicts

Birgitte Refslund Sørensen


Violent conflicts and wars cannot be accounted for without consideration of gender. The statement is simple and often made, but how to incorporate a gender perspective continues to be the object of discussion and contestation. The history of armed conflicts in the Western world is dominated by inter-state wars, the analysis of which has focused on such issues as political objectives and military strategies, the relationship between the technical development of military equipment and war efficiency, economic costs and the deployment of soldiers. The analytical focus has thus predominantly been on male perspectives, interests and activities, which have been cast as gender neutral, leaving aside a discussion of the multiple roles that women played in these wars. The escalation of a new kind of wars, the intra-state or internal wars, that occurred in the wake of decolonization and the post-Cold War period, as nation-states failed to satisfactorily settle issues of identity, resources and power, profoundly challenged our habitual understanding of war as a political and social phenomenon. In these wars, the frontline moved to the villages and neighborhoods where people live, and war became embedded in civilians’ everyday lives in numerous and multifarious ways. Media images of infi nite crowds of refugee women fleeing violence with their dependent children and elderly relatives in search of security, food and health, and of women who have been tortured, maimed and sexually abused, made the relevance of a gender perspective apparent to everyone. Over the past 15 years, many academics and activists have contributed signifi cantly to enhancing our understanding of the entanglement of gender and violent conflicts, with detailed documentation, and critical analysis and reflection (see, for example, Enloe 2000; Moser and Clarke2001; Youngs 2009). These studies confi rm the relevance and urgency of gender, but more importantly, they challenge stereotype and simplified images, and suggest new and more apposite analytical frameworks and policy objectives.

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