Rebuilding feminist identities in the political economy of peacebuilding
PhD Seminar - Maria Martin de Almagro (ULB/LUISS)
IEE, Kant Room
There has been a shift in peacebuilding policy narratives in the West moving beyond the 1990’s understanding of the liberal peace, based upon the existence of universal values, to a post-liberal understanding that points to the need to support local knowledge and local ownership. In the quest to enact this narrative on the ground, local women associations have been (re)constructed as key partners, under the argument that gender equality and women’s empowerment will bring sustainable peace and development.
Through the analysis of in-depth interviews and participant observation, I critically investigate the work of the UN missions in Burundi (BNUB) and UNMIL (Liberia) in this area, suggesting that the UN-produced gender and development discourse is deeply attuned with the politics and practices of neoliberalism. First, it aligns gender equality and women’s empowerment with national development. Second, it determines which projects are suitable for local women associations to conduct in order to reach gender equality. In reflection, the narrative of post-liberal peace put forward by Western proponents focuses on a set of social associations, spaces and practices that reproduce economic and social relations and the eternal division of the public vs the private sphere, instead of transforming them.
In addition, following a post structural reading of gender, we find that a set of neoliberal-compatible female identities considered as those best able to deliver fair and sustainable peace and development —such as “the perfect peacemaker” or the “female peace ambassador”— are produced by the post-liberal framework of action. This framing of women’s empowerment is powerful and can be an effective way for gender local advocates to participate in global processes of reconstruction. However, by paying attention not only to how gender equality in post-conflict settings is framed, but also what has been silenced in this framing in terms of issues and identities, I examine the way in which simplistic framing concerning the contribution that women make to peacebuilding, reconstruction and economic recovery hides the gendered structures of socioeconomic inequality that are central to the incursion of the market into all spheres of post-conflict social life under neoliberal peacebuilding practices.