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Culture, Identity, and Conflict: The Influence of Gender Matthew Evangelista Cornell University otherland. Mother tongue. The birth of the nation. These common metaphors suggest an apparent link between gender and ethnic or ~ ~ nationalist movements. Women in general and mothers in particu- lar are responsible for inculcating the key characteristics that define a cultural or ethnic identity, including such basics as language, religion, dress, and cuisine. Women "serve as boundary markers between different national, ethnic, and religious collectivities" (Kandiyoti, 1991) and thus might be expected to play an important role when such communities come into violent conflict. Yet the relationship between gender, identity, and ethnic or nationalist conflict has received little systematic investiga- tion. In some recent overviews of ethnic conflict, by anthropologists and political scientists alike, one cannot even find gender or women in the index (Eller, 1999; Gurr, 2000~. Nevertheless, a number of scholars have offered promising hypotheses that link gender to nationalism and ethnic conflict. The mandate of the group on "culture, identity, and conflict" is to con- sider "ethnic conflict as an outcome of identity assertion and/or cultural change," with such developments in turn a possible "consequence of worldwide political and economic reorganization." Some of the work on gender and nationalism suggests, for example, that gender identities might mediate some of the relationships between economic globalization or religion and ethnic conflict. Several hypotheses link gender identities to nationalism and conflict. One set of hypotheses concerns beliefs men and women hold about the attributes of masculinity and femininity as they relate to ethnic/national- 81
82 CONFLICT AND RECONSTRUCTION IN MULTIETHNIC SOCIETIES ist conflict and violence. One common hypothesis about men's beliefs is that in order for nationalist movements to become militarized, men must embrace an identity that defines their masculinity as directly linked to the armed protection of their society's women (Enloe, 1993; Nagel, 1998~. For women, there are several possibly contradictory hypotheses. The first is that women must accept their role as the passive, protected seg- ment of society in order for men to identify successfully with a militarized masculinity. Thus, in seeking to anticipate, for example, which ethnic groups might adopt methods of violent secession, one would look to the groups where women are culturally predisposed to accept submissive roles. However, we know from the case of former Yugoslavia that modern societies with high levels of nominal gender equality (in education, em- ployment, and the like) can also fall prey to ethnic violence. The Yugoslav case gives rise to a set of hypotheses that identifies changes in gender relations as a possible early-warning sign of impending ethnicized vio- lence. Pressures on women to produce more babies, and consequent limi- tations on women's reproductive rights, were a significant component of the nationalist mobilization in Serbia and Croatia, for example. The goals were generally to increase the population of one's ethnic group vis-a-vis the others, and in the most militarized versions, to provide future soldiers for ethnic conflict (Albanese, 1996; Licht and Drakulic, 1996~. That gender played a role in the nationalisms of former Yugoslavia seemed apparent also in the conduct of the wars themselves and the extent to which they entailed organized campaigns of mass rape and other sexual atrocities (Allen, 1996; Borneman, 1998~. Contrary to hypotheses associating militarized nationalism with in- creasing gender inequality are those that see nationalist movements as a vehicle for improving women's status. With rare exceptions, nationalism did not play such a positive role in its original nineteenth century Euro- pean guise (Kaplan, 1997~. Beliefs about the emancipatory potential of nationalism were, however, more widespread in the anticolonial move- ments of the second half of the twentieth century (Kandiyoti, 1991; McClintock, 1996~. And they were especially prominent in the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua and the Chiapas rebellion in Mexico (Randall, 1981; Castro, 1995; Poniatowska, 1995; Mora, 1998), even if, in the Sandin- ista case at least, expectations were disappointed (Randall, 1992, 1994~. Thus, a further set of hypotheses suggests that women have sometimes supported nationalist movements, including violent ones, because they perceived them as likely to advance their collective interests. In some cases the militarized nationalist struggles themselves provided opportu- nities for women that would not have been available under peaceful con- ditions. Thus, in some nationalist or national-liberation movements, as in
CULTURE, IDENTITY, AND CONFLICT: THE INFLUENCE OF GENDER 83 Algeria or Nicaragua, women have sought equality with men in an ex- plicitly militarized context namely as guerrilla fighters (Amrane-Minne, 1994; Randall, 1981~. A militarized nationalist movement can apparently be founded on principles of gender equality as well as on polarized iden- tities of protective male and protected female. One task of future research might be to try to identify the conditions under which one dynamic is more likely than the other. Looking for early warning signs of the militarization of an ethnic or secessionist movement is complicated by the range of competing hypoth- eses regarding gender. We would certainly want to pay attention "when a community's politicized sense of its own identity becomes threaded through with pressures for its men to take up arms, for its women to loyally support brothers, husbands, sons, and lovers to become soldiers" (Enloe, 1993~. A highly traditional society with distinct gender identities might be most susceptible to such pressures. But women in a more mod- ern society could also support a violent secessionist movement if the struggle itself provided them opportunities for individual empowerment and if the outcome of national autonomy or independence promised more egalitarian gender relations than existed under the old order. Studies of gender roles in advanced industrial societies with separatist movements, such as Quebec in Canada or the Northern League in Italy, might shed light on this question (Cento Bull, 1996; LeClerc and West, 1997; Malette and Chalouk, 1991~. Hypotheses about the impact on gender relations of the promotion of religious identity (especially for religions that posit women's inferiority and subordination to men) and global economic transformations suggest links between those factors and the propensity for violence (Bookman, 1994; Gagnon, 1994/95; Woodward, 1995~. For example, the 50 percent unemployment rate for militia-aged young men in Belgrade in 1991, itself in part a consequence of changes in the international economy, could also be related to demands for women to stay out of the workforce and have babies instead. The relationship between desperate economic conditions, repression of women's rights, religious fundamentalism, and violence- highlighted most recently in Afghanistan could easily yield more ~en- eral hypotheses (Mo~hadam, 1997; Pollitt, 2001) ) ) ~ A recent study (Goldstein, 2001) has provided a comprehensive sur- vey of hypotheses linking gender and war. It constitutes a good starting point for exploring further hypotheses relating gender to nationalism and ethnic violence, along the lines suggested in this paper.
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