Women, War and Peace in South Asia: Beyond Victimhood to Agency

Authored by: Rita Manchanda (Editor)

Categories: Peace Support Operations, Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: National Security Forces and Armed Groups, Nonviolent Resistance, Peacekeeping
Country: Sri Lanka, India
Region: South and Central Asia
Year: 2001
Citation: Manchanda, Rita, ed. Women, War and Peace in South Asia: Beyond Victimhood to Agency. London: SAGE Publications, 2001.

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In the meta-narrative of histories, the dominant motif of women in violent conflict is the Grieving Mother. Yet, there are many faces of women in conflict in South Asia. Women have negotiated conflict situations by becoming citizens, combatants, heads of households, war munitions workers, prostitutes, producers of soldiers and war resisters, and political leaders at the local and national levels. At one end in South Asia, is the Woman of Violence represented by the Armed Virgin of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam), and at the other, the Woman of Peace, symbolised by the Naga Mothers Association in the nationalist struggle for an independent Nagaland. Structured around six narratives of women negotiating violent politics in their everyday lives, this book shifts the focus away from the victimhood discourse and explores women’s agency for both peace and conflict. Threaded through these essays is the controversial theme of the dualism of “loss and gains”: the societal upheaval caused by conflict opens up public spaces for women, thus bringing about unintended but desirable structural changes for women’s empowerment; yet, it is precisely at this time that the impulse to women’s transformation is circumscribed by the nationalist project itself, which casts women in the role of guardians of the community’s accepted and acceptable distinct cultural identity and tradition.