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Title: Situating women in war and displacement : intersections of 'race', nationalism and gender in the context of forced migration and humanitarian assistance
Author: Palmary, Ingrid.
Awarding Body: Manchester Metropolitan University
Current Institution: Manchester Metropolitan University
Date of Award: 2005
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Abstract:
This thesis contributes to a growing literature on women in armed contlict. Working from the assumption that histories are contested terrains subject to continuous reconstruction I offer a counter-narrative on what happens to women in times of armed contlict. This research is based on interviews with 40 women who were refugees or asylum seekers living in Johannesburg, South Africa as well as two, two-day workshops conducted with the same women. Rather than argue that this account more accurately describes the experiences of women in times of war and forced displacement, I have analysed how a range of discourses including wartime propaganda, constructions of asylum and development aid, shape and confine the possibilities for how women narrate their multiple positionings in the contlict of their home countries and their displacement to South Africa. This research is rooted in a feminist tradition that problematises the possibilities of knowing and acting as a refugee and how these are constructed through the social significance awarded to women's experiences. Beginning from an analysis of existing literature on women in times of war, this thesis critically engages with the ways in which women have been represented in wartime discourses. I argue that the representation of women as entirely rooted in the domestic sphere and passive in the face of men's wars excludes the complexity of engagements with, and resistances to, armed contlict that women have. In chapter three I begin by considering how the reproduction of 'race' and nationality is accomplished through gendered patrilineal norms. The notion of 'pure racial' or national difference rests on the control of sexual relationships. To this end, women who were in 'mixed' relationshipsas defined within the discourse of 'racial' purity - were particularly targeted. Indeed, I identify how women, at times, used the notion of being 'mixed' to resist dominant discourses of pure communities that were circulating during the conflict. This requires us to reconsider what we understand by political activism or resistance in a context where violence against women and practices that regulate their sexuality are typically taken to be cultural or domestic and are, thereby, set up in opposition to political violations. This is the central concern of chapter four. In particular, this chapter goes on to consider how some women closed down the possibilities for representing their actions as political because of the way political agency was set up in opposition to a construction of victimisation on which their claims to resources depended. Thus, the thesis goes on, in chapter five to consider how the NGO sector and the development philosophies on which it is based, as the sector most responsible in South Africa for providing services to refugees, draws on and reinforces a notion of 'women as mothers' that is inherently apolitical and, therefore, innocent. The ways in which this reproduces an essentialised notion of the refugee woman that is rooted in a representation as politically naive and passive is explored and critiqued for its implications for service delivery. In addition, I consider how this silences a range of women's violations, most notably, sexual violence. A project of this nature takes place across cultural, 'racial', linguistic and national boundaries in a way that requires analysis in its own right. Thus, chapters two and six work together to provide an analysis of the possibilities of knowing produced by the context of the research and the social, historical constructions that this research negotiates, draws on and rejects at different moments of the research process.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.422803  DOI: Not available
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