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Title: Reconstructed meanings of gender violence in postwar Liberia
Author: Thornhill, Kerrie
ISNI:       0000 0004 6353 1810
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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The central question guiding this study is, how can Liberia's historical context of colonial state formation and reformation help explain public discourses surrounding gender violence in the postwar decade, 2003-2013? This question is addressed using original data from mixed qualitative methods including participant observation, visual methods, and semi-structured interviews. The research identifies narratives and meta-narratives produced by liberal institutions (including the Government of Liberia and international agencies), as well as informal discourses from adult Liberians of different backgrounds living in Greater Monrovia. Using critical discourse analysis, the argument identifies connections between the narratives that recur, the social realities they recall, and the power dynamics they perpetuate. These discourses are best understood in reference to liberal and colonial/imperial dynamics from Liberia's settlement period. Liberal institutions addressing gender violence in the postwar period face dilemmas in which universalist humanitarian ideals work in tandem with, and provide justification for, imperialism as a set of discursive and material relations. Nonelite Liberians instrumentalise and subvert both privileged donor discourses as well as long-standing colonial hierarchies of 'civilised' and 'country'. Additionally, the thesis examines how liberal institutions, traditional institutions, and Liberian citizens interact as agents of discursive construction. It will be shown that this pattern of discourse production is at times harmonious, as in the interactions around promoting male head-of-household responsibilities, and at other times adversarial, as in conflicts surrounding excision as an initiation practice for girls. Liberal institutions, non-elite Liberians, and traditional authorities both collude and compete in this era of dynamic normative contestation. Both the major discourses and the interactions that produce them can be explained in part by the liberal imperialism and its specific form of settler colonialism that propelled the founding and subsequent stages of state formation in Liberia. The consequences of that residual history indicate inherent - though, not irredeemable - structural limitations to a robust institutional response to gender violence. In this manner the study demonstrates the utility of historicising Liberia's contemporary gender violence discourses, and how doing so can address the longstanding bifurcation between rights and culture in international development and transnational feminist geography.
Supervisor: Daley, Patricia ; Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Elena Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Women--Violence against--Liberia ; Women--Social conditions--Liberia ; Postwar reconstruction--Liberia ; Feminism--Liberia ; Postcolonialism--Africa ; Liberia--Social conditions--21st century