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Loyalist Women Paramilitaries in Northern Ireland: Beginning a Feminist Conversation about Conflict Resolution

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Research on war, conflict, and terrorism has traditionally focused on the motivations of male combatants to participate in political violence. Such a focus has largely ignored the role of women who wield political violence. This article revisits one of feminist International Relations (IR) most basic questions, “Where are the women?” and encourages an expanded view of security and conflict resolution that asks how combatant women might contribute to current scholarly understanding of conflict and conflict resolution processes. I argue that the thirty-year conflict remained intractable in part because of the exclusion of those Loyalist women who wielded political violence, seriously limiting the British and Irish governments' ability to understand and resolve the conflict. Included in the analysis is interview data collected in an eight-month empirical study conducted by the author in 2006 with thirty women who identify as past or present members or supporters of Loyalist paramilitary organizations in Northern Ireland. The unique perceptions of Loyalist women combatants of four cross-border agreements between 1974 and 2006 are used to illustrate how a feminist approach to conflict resolution can serve as an innovating starting point in theorizing about and attempting to resolve conflict.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Massachusetts,

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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