Women as ‘new security actors’ in preventing and countering violent extremism in Mali

Journal article

Lorentzen, Jenny (2021) Women as ‘new security actors’ in preventing and countering violent extremism in Mali, International Affairs 97 (3): 721–738.

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The frames of counterterrorism and countering violent extremism are increasingly shaping much international engagement in Mali. In this environment, women's contributions are often reduced to their peacemaking potential. This article studies how the UN policy agendas on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) are translated in discourses on P/CVE in Mali. It draws on feminist and postcolonial scholarship to develop a framework for analysing how local intermediaries in norm translation engage in ‘discursive practices of re-presentation’ and conducts a discourse analysis of interviews with Malian civil society and government representatives. The analysis finds that a re-presentation of women as security actors, constructed as an extension of their roles as peacemakers, dominates the discourse. I use the term ‘new security actors’ to describe the dominant re-presentation of women that emerges in this context: a woman who will contribute to preventing radicalization and violent extremism by influencing, counselling, and/or informing on her family or community members. ‘New security actors’, however, emerges as a problematic re-presentation of women which emphasizes traditional gender roles and potentially exposes women to risks, and in many ways seem to contradict much of the normative aspirations of the WPS agenda.

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