Situating Women in Counterterrorism Discourses: Undulating Masculinities and Luminal Femininities

Authored by: Fionnuala Ní Aoláin

Categories: Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: Countering Violent Extremism, National Security Forces and Armed Groups, Violent Extremism
Country: Northern Ireland
Region: Europe and Eurasia
Year: 2013
Citation: Ní Aoláin, Fionnuala. “Situating Women in CounterterrorismDiscourses: Undulating Masculinities and Luminal Femininities.” Boston University Law Review 93 (2013): 1085-1122.

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The preoccupation with the challenges posed by violent actors has long
existed for many states, whether such actors are characterized as terrorists or
insurgents, non-state or paramilitary actors. From a feminist perspective, it is notable that terrorism and counterterrorism have long been of marginal interest to mainstream feminist legal theorizing. Men remain the primary and visible actors in terrorist acts and counterterrorism responses. In the legal field, a concentration on male actors has dominated national security conversations. When women come into view they typically do so as the wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers of terrorist actors, or as the archetypal victims of senseless terrorist acts. Women remain marginal to the conversations in which definitions of security are agreed upon and generally peripheral to the institutional settings in which security frameworks are implemented as policy and law. Women perpetrators of terrorist violence are largely ignored or fetishized. Part I examines the female combatant/terrorist category, outlining its connection to and presence in counterterrorist regulation. Part II contemplates ethno-national conflicts and disaggregates the distinctions between combat-related action and a broader set of acts undertaken by women that support, advance, or facilitate violence. Part III is framed by attention to the myriad ways in which women’s lives intersect with counterterrorism practice and policies. Part IV attends to the experience of women following the application of state anti-terrorism laws. Part V provides an in-depth view of stop-and-search powers under British emergency law.