Cynthia Enloe, Keynote Speaker at the CGC’s Annual Spring Conference,
Photo from Clark University
I had never critically questioned my understanding of militarization before I read Maneuvers. In reading Enloe, along with Sandra Whitworth, J. Ann Tickner, Cynthia Cockburn and Dubravka Zarkov, I began to see militarism as extending beyond military practices to encompass a package of ideas, assumptions, values and beliefs that are shaped by intricate processes of masculinity and femininity. This “package” privileges the masculine to create patriarchal systems that, as society becomes increasing militarized, reinforce the patriarchy of everyday life.
Enloe encourages readers to be curious, to ask questions previously unasked, and to examine spaces previously assumed to be unworthy of academic inquiry. She guides us to consider not only the hegemonic voices and public narratives of the powerful, but to train our ears to the “informal, private, casual conversations, [the] shared jokes, gestures, and rituals” that provide insight into the ways that notions of femininity and masculinity are employed or understood in people’s daily lives (Enloe, 2004: 5). Enloe’s curiosity also extends to taking women’s lives seriously by exploring the multi-dimensional nature of women’s identities and experiences. Readers are encouraged to reject analyses that frame women as powerless victims, or those that suggest empowerment is something that can be given. Instead, in books like Nimo’s War, Emma’s War (2010), Enloe grounds her analysis of conflict in the stories of women whose lives have been shaped by the war, providing a window into the gendered nature of conflict that is obscured or neglected by traditional investigations.
Embracing Enloe’s explicit curiosity to gender, I began to recognize the ways in which militaristic beliefs govern the international and domestic arena. This lens reveals the prominence of the military in contemporary societies – drawing attention to the huge budgets awarded to military institutions and the prestige and political status of actors within. This lens reveals the almost inevitable reliance on armed forces as the solution to violent conflict, either under the guise of UN Peacekeeping “boots on the ground”, or through aerial missiles and drones. This lens reveals the militarized discourse woven into political rhetoric – the seemingly unequivocal need to demonstrate one’s hardline, tough approach in foreign policy, and the armed, securitized police forces in domestic strategy. This lens reveals the presumed benign nature of toy guns for children, of Star Wars pasta shapes in Heinz soup, or the normalization of violence through video games.
Looking at conflict through a gender lens reveals the ways in which gender shapes violence and dictates response. A gender analysis interrogates and resists assumptions of “post-conflict” peace and exposes the multiple forms of violence that remain even if warfare stops. Such analysis considers the connection between micro-level instances of interpersonal gendered violence, and macro-level forms of structural violence that shape the lives of women and men. Enloe’s emphasis on entrenched militarization in everyday life inspired my pursuit of graduate studies and shaped my scholarship to critically question the ways in which gender influences individual behavior, public discussion and formal decision making across the domestic and international scene. Enloe’s work also inspires my constant curiosity regarding the stories that remain untold, or those that are taken for granted in our analysis of conflict, war, and violence.
It is for these reasons, amongst many others, that we are thrilled to welcome Cynthia Enloe to give the keynote address at the Center for the Study of Gender and Conflict’s third annual research conference. Dr Enloe will speak in the evening of April 2, 2015.
Enloe, C. (1989) Bananas Beaches & Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics, London: Pandora Press.
Enloe, C. (2000) Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women’s Lives, Berkeley: University of California Press.
Enloe C. (2004) The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire, Berkeley: University of California Press.
Enloe C. (2010) Nimo’s War, Emma’s War: Making Feminist Sense of the Iraq War. Berkeley: University of California Press.