Feminist peace: reimagining peace through a feminist lens

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  • 1 Monash University, , Australia
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Any vision of peace must ‘grapple not only with war but also with continuums of violence and peace that extend from the home and community to the public spaces of international relations’ (True, 2020: 87). The contributing authors to this themed section challenge and enrich traditional conceptions of peace by adopting a feminist approach to peace. Feminist peace research, as Väyrynen et al (2021: 43) have argued, must be ‘open to untidiness, complexity and co-existing contradictions’. This themed section aims to engage with such complexity and untidiness by adopting feminist peace as a theory, praxis and/or methodology. Feminist peace aims to challenge systems of oppression and hierarchy, confronting patriarchal power and systems of gender-based violence and harm. This themed section uses the concept of feminist peace to contest traditional militarised and masculinised assumptions underpinning projects to end war in order to unsettle much of what we think we know about peace by revealing the mundane and everyday acts that promote peace and an end to violence (see Otto, 2020; Mackenzie and Wegner, 2021).

Research on feminist peace requires a more radical and emancipatory analysis of peace and war than conventional accounts (Berry and Lake, 2021; Väyrynen et al, 2021). However, feminist peace research confronts a ‘double bind’ between ‘nonideal strategies and ideal visions which loom large in feminist thought and activism’ (Bird, 2020: 180; see also Radin, 1990). Feminist perspectives and theory move between attempts at ‘resistance’ and acts of ‘compliance’ (Kouvo and Pearson, 2011). Tensions between these objectives are present in the contributing articles to the themed section, which respond to policy inventions and frameworks, especially the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. The WPS agenda was designed to address women’s unique and specific experiences of war, as well as the marginalisation of women’s needs and priorities after war. However, in practice, it often overlooks the ways in which intersecting forms of oppression and marginalisation sustain power. The WPS agenda is a site of ongoing struggle and contestation. Although the agenda breaks the traditional boundaries of international peace and security (True and Wiener, 2019), it also tends to reinforce gender binaries and hierarchies (Otto, 2006; Shepherd, 2008; Hagen, 2016), and to reproduce neoliberal capitalist logics (Martín de Almagro and Ryan, 2019) and neocolonialism (Gibbings, 2011; Pratt, 2013; Parashar, 2019).

Feminist activists and researchers have been working for decades to challenge entrenched masculine forms of power. The danger in transforming established understandings of peace is that the proposed alternative frameworks may be co-opted into the very same structures and institutions that they were designed to dismantle (Otto, 2010). As editors and authors of this themed section, we are aware of ‘how power sustains itself within institutions’ (Heathcote, 2018: 390) and hope that the critical and ongoing dialogue on the contested concept of feminist peace can help us to avoid co-optation.

In her article, Magda Lorena Cárdenas (2022) challenges the trend towards a monolithic definition of feminist peace. Instead, she centres women activists’ and organisations’ definitions of peace. Cárdenas argues that women’s organisations more closely connected to conflict parties define peace on the parties’ terms. By contrast, women’s groups less closely connected to conflict parties tend to reframe the conflict lines to advocate for a more transformative peace.

In Elisabeth Olivius, Jenny Hedström and Zin Mar Phyo’s (2022) article, feminist peace is a political condition ‘that allow[s] women affected by conflict to articulate their visions of change and to influence the construction of post-war order in the spaces that shape their lives’. They argue that the illiberal, militarised politics in Myanmar constrain the implementation of the international WPS agenda, as well as the possibilities for feminist peace.

For her part, María Martin de Almagro (2022) places social reproduction – a feminist political-economy concept that highlights women’s unpaid labour – at the core of a feminist peace. In her article, she analyses two Liberian post-conflict land laws as sites of struggle between a potentially transformative feminist peace project and the reproduction of inequality. She concludes that the radical feminist land reform efforts are too narrow and do not account for how gender intersects with other forms of oppression, such as class, age and ethnicity.

The final article by Sarah Smith and Elena B. Stavrevska (2022) proposes an intersectional approach to the WPS agenda in its interpretation and implementation. Their call for a different WPS agenda that attends to overlapping power structures and hierarchies reflects some of the key objectives of feminist peace research.

The articles in this themed section contribute to ‘the transition of social relations in the direction of emancipation’ (Wibben et al, 2019: 88). As feminist scholars, we strive to give voice and space to those most impacted by our subjects of study. Simultaneously, we recognise that those who should be at the centre of the discussions of peace/war are often ostracised by our conceptual categories and research processes in ways that mirror their marginalisation in real-world peacemaking and peacebuilding. Thus, discussion of feminist peace should promote better ways of researching peace and responding to violence and conflict in a world where the possibilities for non-violent resolution to conflicts seem increasingly limited.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

References

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    • Export Citation
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    • Export Citation
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    • Export Citation
  • Väyrynen, T., Parashar, S., Féron, E. and Confortini, C.C. (2021) Introduction, in T. Väyrynen, S. Parashar, E. Féron and C.C. Confortini (eds) Routledge Handbook of Feminist Peace Research, London: Routledge, pp 110.

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  • Wibben, A.T., Confortini, C.C., Roohi, S., Aharoni, S.B., Vastapuu, L. and Vaittinen, T. (2019) Collective discussion: piecing-up feminist peace research, International Political Sociology, 13(1): 86107. doi: 10.1093/ips/oly034

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Berry, M. and Lake, M. (2021) Women’s rights after war: on gender interventions and enduring hierarchies, Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 17: 45981. doi: 10.1146/annurev-lawsocsci-113020-085456

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bird, F. (2020) ‘Is this a time of beautiful chaos?’: reflecting on international feminist methods, Feminist Legal Studies, 28(2): 179203. doi: 10.1007/s10691-020-09434-2

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cárdenas, M. (2022) Exploring women’s vision(s) of peace: towards feminist peace in Myanmar and Georgia?, European Journal of Politics and Gender, 5(1): X-XX. doi: 10.1332/251510821X16334463779354

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gibbings, S.L. (2011) No angry women at the United Nations: political dreams and the cultural politics of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, International Feminist Journal of Politics, 13(4): 52238. doi: 10.1080/14616742.2011.611660

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hagen, J.J. (2016) Queering women, peace and security, International Affairs, 92(2): 3312. doi: 10.1111/1468-2346.12551

  • Heathcote, G. (2018) Security Council Resolution 2242 on Women, Peace and Security: progressive gains or dangerous development?, Global Society, 32(4): 37494. doi: 10.1080/13600826.2018.1494140

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kouvo, S. and Pearson, Z. (2011) Introduction, in S. Kouvo and Z. Pearson (eds) Feminist Perspectives on Contemporary International Law: Between Resistance and Compliance?, Oxford: Hart, pp 110.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mackenzie, M. and Wegner, N. (eds) (2021) Feminist Solutions for Ending War, London: Pluto Press.

  • Martín de Almagro, M. and Ryan, C. (2019) Subverting economic empowerment: towards a postcolonial-feminist framework on gender (in)securities in post-war settings, European Journal of International Relations, 25(4): 105979.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Martin de Almagro, M. (2022) Building feminist peace: gender, legal reforms and social reproduction after the United Nations Mission in Liberia, European Journal of Politics and Gender, 5(1): X-XX. doi: 10.1332/251510821X16363617184856

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Olivius, E., Hedström, J. and Zin Mar Phyo. (2021) Feminist peace or state co-optation? The Women, Peace and Security agenda in Myanmar, European Journal of Politics and Gender, 5(1): X-XX. doi: 10.1332/251510821X16359327302509

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Otto, D. (2006) A sign of ‘weakness’? Disrupting gender certainties in the implementations of Security Council Resolution 1325, Michigan Journal of Gender and Law, 13(1): 11375.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Otto, D. (2010) Power and danger: feminist engagement with international law through the UN Security Council, The Australian Feminist Law Journal, 23(5): 97121. doi: 10.1080/13200968.2010.10854439

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Otto, D. (2020) Rethinking ‘peace’ in international law and politics from a queer feminist perspective, Feminist Review, 126(1): 1938. doi: 10.1177/0141778920948081

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Parashar, S. (2019) The WPS agenda: a postcolonial critique, in J. True and S.E. Davies (eds) Oxford Handbook on Women, Peace and Security, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp 82939.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pratt, N. (2013) Reconceptualising gender, reinscribing racial-sexual boundaries in international security: the case of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on ‘Women, Peace and Security’, International Studies Quarterly, 57(4): 77283. doi: 10.1111/isqu.12032

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Radin, M.J. (1990) The pragmatist and the feminist, Southern California Law Review, 63(6): 1699726.

  • Shepherd, L.J. (2008) Power and authority in the production of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, International Studies Quarterly, 52(2): 383404. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2478.2008.00506.x

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Smith, S. and Stavrevska, E. (2022) A different Women, Peace and Security is possible? Intersectionality in Women, Peace and Security resolutions and national action plans, European Journal of Politics and Gender, 5(1): X-XX. doi: 10.1332/251510821X16354049461534

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • True, J. (2020) Continuums of violence and peace: a feminist perspective, Ethics and International Affairs, 34(1): 111. doi: 10.1017/S0892679420000064

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • True, J. and Wiener, A. (2019) Everyone wants (a) peace: the dynamics of rhetoric and practice on ‘Women, Peace and Security’, International Affairs, 95(3): 55374. doi: 10.1093/ia/iiz027

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Väyrynen, T., Parashar, S., Féron, E. and Confortini, C.C. (2021) Introduction, in T. Väyrynen, S. Parashar, E. Féron and C.C. Confortini (eds) Routledge Handbook of Feminist Peace Research, London: Routledge, pp 110.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wibben, A.T., Confortini, C.C., Roohi, S., Aharoni, S.B., Vastapuu, L. and Vaittinen, T. (2019) Collective discussion: piecing-up feminist peace research, International Political Sociology, 13(1): 86107. doi: 10.1093/ips/oly034

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

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