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Female Soldiers in Sierra Leone

Sex, Security, and Post-Conflict Development

Megan H. MacKenzie

Publication Year: 2012

The eleven-year civil war in Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2002 was incomprehensibly brutal—it is estimated that half of all female refugees were raped and many thousands were killed. While the publicity surrounding sexual violence helped to create a general picture of women and girls as victims of the conflict, there has been little effort to understand female soldiers' involvement in, and experience of, the conflict. Female Soldiers in Sierra Leone draws on interviews with 75 former female soldiers and over 20 local experts, providing a rare perspective on both the civil war and post-conflict development efforts in the country. Megan MacKenzie argues that post-conflict reconstruction is a highly gendered process, demonstrating that a clear recognition and understanding of the roles and experiences of female soldiers are central to both understanding the conflict and to crafting effective policy for the future.

Published by: NYU Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The subject matter of much of this book has been emotionally challenging for me— overwhelming at times. If it were not for the encouragement, support, inspiration, and tough love of many people, I suspect this research would have been abandoned in its infancy. ...

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Foreword: The New Feminist International Relations

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pp. xi-xii

At last, students of feminist international relations (IR) have become interested in the women hiding in plain view: the women of war and conflict, which is to say the women who become agents of collective violence and, when possible, of post-conflict strategies. ...

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1. Introduction: Conjugal Order and Insecurity Post-Conflict

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pp. 1-22

One of the most illustrative signifiers of Sierra Leone’s eleven-year civil conflict is an image of a boy, about twelve years old, wearing tattered clothing and a tough expression and holding an AK-47.1 Variations of this image have been used on countless pamphlets and posters to “raise awareness” about child soldiers, ...

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2. The History of Sex, Order, and Conflict in Sierra Leone

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pp. 23-44

The majority of the current literature on Sierra Leone tends to focus on one of the following: the “chaotic” nature of Africa in general and West Africa in particular,2 the eleven-year civil conflict,3 the role of blood diamonds in conflicts,4 child soldiers,5 and the lessons to be learned from the United Nations’ mission and intervention in the Sierra Leone conflict.6 ...

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3. Defining Soldiers

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pp. 45-62

Female soldiers wholly disrupt gendered binaries associated with war, particularly the contrasting image of the male warrior and female victim. Furthermore, female soldiers challenge dominant war mythologies, including the myth that women are naturally peaceful and men are naturally violent or heroic. ...

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4. Empowerment Boom or Bust? Assessing Women’s Post–Armed Conflict Empowerment Initiatives

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pp. 63-84

“Empowerment” has become one of the most frequently used terms in development discourses today. From the creation of water wells to microfinance programs to political awareness campaigns, development initiatives have lauded themselves as sources of empowerment for their beneficiaries. ...

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5. Securitization and Desecuritization: Female Soldiers and the Reconstruction of Women

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pp. 85-98

Lene Hansen proposes that “a critical discourse might start by challenging the key representations of identity that underpin the policy in question.”3 This chapter investigates the gendered assumptions that underpin policy makers’ responses to the question “Why did so few women and girls participate in the DDR in Sierra Leone?” ...

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6. Securitizing Sex? Rethinking Wartime Sexual Violence

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pp. 99-116

The question “Why is rape deemed an effective tool of war?” has not been sufficiently explored and has been limited by traditional conflict and security metaphors. Continuing to focus on Sierra Leone, this chapter will explore dominant approaches to wartime rape and offer a new framework ...

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7. Loving Your Enemy: Rape, Sex, Childbirth, and Politics Post–Armed Conflict

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pp. 117-136

Sara Ruddick has written that “[women’s] maternal conception of the history of human flesh sets them at odds with militarist endeavours.”3 Ruddick’s work is representative of maternal feminists’ conclusions about women’s natural aversion to war and conflict. Ruddick has written about the positive impact of motherhood on women ...

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8. Conclusion: Displacing War Mythology and Developmental Logic

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pp. 137-146

This book began with reference to an image of a young male holding an AK-47. The young man was discussed as symbolic of oversimplified characterizations of chaotic, irrational, and male-driven civil wars in Africa. Perhaps it is fitting now to think about what—if any—iconic images of African women exist. ...


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pp. 147-168


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pp. 169-174

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About the Author

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p. 175

Megan H. MacKenzie is a lecturer in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney and a faculty affiliate with the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University.

E-ISBN-13: 9780814771259
E-ISBN-10: 0814761372
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814761373
Print-ISBN-10: 0814761372

Page Count: 188
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 810933437
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Female Soldiers in Sierra Leone

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Women soldiers -- Sierra Leone.
  • Sex role -- Sierra Leone.
  • Postwar reconstruction -- Sierra Leone.
  • Rape as a weapon of war -- Sierra Leone.
  • Sierra Leone -- History -- Civil War, 1991-2002 -- Participation, Female.
  • Sierra Leone -- History -- Civil War, 1991-2002 -- Women.
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