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>> 1 1 Introduction Conjugal Order and Insecurity Post-Conflict 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, to solicit donations for war-torn African countries, and to advertise the need for research in the areas of peace and post-conflict. This singular image is used to represent “Africa,” or some idea of Africa as a landmass united by troubled civil wars, corruption, and underdevelopment.2 The young boy soldier symbolizes uncomplicated perceptions of “the African ” subject. He embodies the constant possibility of chaos in Africa and the perceived need for outside intervention. Likewise, the boy signifies the lost innocence of childhood specifically and of “traditional” Africa more generally . As a child, he evokes the sense that, though his innocence has been corrupted , there remains a possibility for it to be returned. This feeds the perception of “the tragedy of Africa” and the notion that despite the destruction and losses, it is possible—and the West’s “responsibility”—to restore order and peace to this troubled continent. This boy has become representative of a wider collection of archetypal identities associated with the continent, including the disenfranchised youth, the impoverished citizen, and the uneducated child. When I traveled to Sierra Leone in October 2005, it was clear that this characterization had masked, and somehow eclipsed, other identities. Of these unexplored identities , female soldiers are perhaps one of the most underrepresented categories of “war-affected” citizens. The “official” story of the conflict, reflected in the literature, media accounts, and international nongovernmental organization (INGO) and nongovernmental organization (NGO) reports, largely omits the participation of female soldiers. Furthermore, mainstream narratives recounting the so-called postwar period and the end of armed conflict are reliably mute on the experiences of women and girls. Narratives tend to focus on violent men being disarmed so that society can “return to normal” 2 > 3 are impacted by, or protected from, war but rarely contribute to, or impact, war themselves. This book is premised on the belief that stories of war and peace are nothing but gendered myths if they ignore, silence, or exclude women and girls. Without asking about and listening to the experiences of women and girls as well as men and boys during war, we are left with a limited understanding of war, who is involved, what it means to people, and how they are affected in the short and long term. Current understandings of post-conflict, peace, and reintegration in Sierra Leone are equally gendered, due, in part, to an absence of female soldiers’ own accounts of the war and the “postwar” period. Without recognizing the roles and experiences of female soldiers in Sierra Leone, post-conflict reconstruction policies are bound to be gender blind at best, and restrictive, moralizing, and disciplining at worst. Drawing largely from interview material, one of the central aims of this book is to show post-conflict reconstruction as a highly gendered process defined and imposed largely from the outside of so-called war-torn communities . Within much of the literature focused on post–armed conflict states, the processes of post-conflict reconstruction and peace building are presupposed to be benign, inclusive, and progressive. The post-conflict period is often defined as a temporary period after a formal cease-fire characterized by increased peace, possibility, and development. Post-conflict organizations and institutions are seen as neutral actors whose roles are to facilitate the transition from insecurity and conflict to peace and social order. Post-conflict policies are largely shaped by patriarchal norms associated with liberal social order rather than by “local” needs, realities, or particularities. Crowding out space for its critique, this idealized imaginary of the post-conflict phase casts external actors as necessary saviors and obviates questions about the kinds of conflicts and insecurities that might continue after formal ceasefire agreements. Interviews with female soldiers also inspired the conclusion that key concepts connected with both war and peace, such as order, disorder, security, and insecurity, are gendered and largely assume particular gendered orders. Reconstruction, the return to normal, the restoration of order, and reintegration —the central objectives of most post-conflict policies—are not gender neutral but rather assume and require a particular gendered order. As a result, post-conflict policies have the...


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