Handbook on Gender and War
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Handbook on Gender and War

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.
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Chapter 6: Gender and ‘population-centric’ counterinsurgency in Afghanistan

Julia Welland


This chapter pays attention to the ways in which gender is rendered visible in the population-centric counterinsurgency environment of Afghanistan and how gender informs dominant representations and understandings of the conflict. Pointing first to the particular type of militarized masculinity required for the conducting of the ‘hearts and minds’ warfare of counterinsurgency, a ‘softer’ and ‘gentler’ soldier is visible, one who is distinct both from their previous warrior incarnations, and from the insurgent masculinities they are pitted against and the masculinities of the Afghan security forces they fight alongside. Secondly, the chapter reveals how the conduct of counterinsurgency requires a greater visibility of femininity, both physically in the bodies of women soldiers through the use of so-called ‘Female Engagement Teams’, and conceptually through the need for military personnel to demonstrate the ‘feminine’ emotions of compassion and concern. The chapter argues that this re-scripted militarized masculine identity and greater visibility of femininity are central to the claims that the long war in Afghanistan was one in which the population’s needs came first.

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