PIR Seminar- Agents of Violence, Casualties of Peace? Examining the Lived Experiences of Female Combatants from the War in Bosnia & Herzegovina
Speaker: Dr. Maria O’Reilly, Lecturer in Politics & International Relations
The international agenda on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) – as outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions – recognises women’s agency in contexts of violent conflict and post-war peacebuilding. Despite this acknowledgement, female-perpetrated violence continues to be written out of cultural memory or else narrated through gendered stereotypes of violent women as vengeful mothers, psychologically disturbed monsters, or (hyper-)sexualised ‘whores’ (Sjoberg and Gentry 2007). Challenging these gaps and (essentialist) traps of representation is important to gain an accurate, more nuanced account of women as perpetrators of war and of political violence. It is also essential for building gender-just forms of peace. In response, this paper examines the lived experiences of female ex-combatants and women associated with fighting forces in the Bosnian War. Drawing on narrative interviews completed with over fifty female veterans from across Bosnia & Herzegovina, I use a feminist lens to examine: 1) women’s wartime roles (both combat and support); 2) their diverse motivations for participating in fighting forces; 3) the positive and negative impact of their war participation; and 4) their post-war experiences of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration. These largely silenced narratives, I argue, provide crucial insights into the gendered nature of warfare and of post-conflict recovery processes.