Academic event 2011

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Post-conflict Personal-Political Imaginations: Understanding Meanings of Gender Security

Laura Jane McLeod

‚ University of Manchester, UK


‘Gender security’ has become an important consideration in south-eastern Europe, particularly since Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina approved National Action Plans for the implementation of UNSCR 1325 on women, peace and security during 2010. However, relatively little attention has been paid to how the way in which conflict and post-conflict is thought about shapes how ‘gender security’ is conceptualised, and the subsequent policy implications. Part one of this paper draws upon over 100 interviews conducted in Serbia during 2008 and 2009 with activists from feminist and women’s organisations, and policy-makers working in international organisations, to explore how the way in which post-conflict is thought about has a profound impact on how gender security is conceptualised.  Serbia was selected as a case study because the country has a difficult and problematic association with conflict and post-conflict.  The social and political tensions around how to view the wars in ex-Yugoslavia continue to shape the dynamics of contemporary Serbian politics, and indeed, how Serbia is perceived by “outsiders”.  These perceptions about Serbia’s relationship to conflict and post-conflict are not merely based upon memory.  These perceptions are also shaped by our positioning in the present and – critically – our hopes for the future.  Past, present and future are bound up in what I describe as a personal-political imagination (echoing the key feminist insight that the personal is political).  It will be clear that the way in which ‘gender security’ is conceptualised is constitutive of a post-conflict personal-political imagination. Part two demonstrates that this understanding of the connection between perceptions of post-conflict and how ‘gender security’ is described matters because these perceptions have a significant impact upon how gender security policy is developed.  Documentary analysis of a number of gender security policies in Serbia will highlight the connections between post-conflict personal-political imaginations and gender security policy.  The policies investigated will include Serbia’s National Action Plan to implement UNSCR 1325. This paper will conclude with discussion of why it is important for policy-makers to understand how security policy is made.  Critically thinking about how our ideas facilitate the world we live in   enables us to avoid unconsciously reproducing the different forms of oppression and exclusion that potentially arise from policy.  This process of understanding is not in pursuit of the perfect policy (given that perfection is an impossible task), but rather, about awareness of how political ideas are organised and how these ideas are (re)produced in the making of a policy.  Furthermore, developing awareness of the effects that personal-political imaginations of conflict and post-conflict have upon how we conceptualise ‘gender security’ could potentially open way for a more effective dialogue between groups that may normally be at odds with each other.


About author:


Laura McLeod became a Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Manchester, UK in January 2011.  She completed her PhD, 'Gender Politics and Security Discourse: Feminist and Women's Organising in "Post-conflict" Serbia' at the University of Sheffield, UK in March 2011.  Laura’s research interests cover a wide area, including international security studies, feminist and poststructural international relations theories, and gender politics in Europe.   She is especially interested in war, the effects of war and post-conflict reconstruction, and is keen to pursue research exploring various configurations of "post-conflict", and the gender impacts of those configurations.  Her teaching interests include gender in politics and international relations, International Relations theory, security studies, human rights, war, peace and post-conflict studies.  She is currently teaching specialist modules in Global Ethics, Security Studies and the Ethics of War and Peace.