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Feminist Geopolitics: Unpacking
(In)Security, Animating Social Change

Jill Williams & Vanessa Massaro



Graduate School of Geography, Clark University , Worcester , MA ,

Department of Geography , The Pennsylvania State University ,
University Park , PA , USA
Published online: 20 Nov 2013.

To cite this article: Jill Williams & Vanessa Massaro (2013) Feminist Geopolitics:
Unpacking (In)Security, Animating Social Change, Geopolitics, 18:4, 751-758, DOI:
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University Park. Graduate School of Geography. this special section highlights the utility of feminist geopolitical approaches for gaining analytic clarity and thinking through and enacting positive social change.Geopolitics. drawing attention to the everyday and embodied sites and discourses through which transnational economic and political relations are forged and contested. MA. PA. 950 Main Street. methodologies. a number of the pieces draw important connections between geopolitical and geoeconomic processes. Second. USA VANESSA MASSARO Department of Geography. The Pennsylvania State University. Worcester. the pieces continue to excavate the complex relationship between geopolitical processes and everyday life. Worcester. USA This piece is the introduction to a special section on Feminist Geopolitics focusing specifically on securitisation. Taken as a whole. Clark University. 2013 Copyright © Taylor & Francis 751 .2013. LLC ISSN: 1465-0045 print / 1557-3028 online DOI: 10.1080/14650045. Animating Social Change Downloaded by [Newcastle University] at 04:10 12 August 2015 JILL WILLIAMS Graduate School of Geography. Clark University. a significant body of feminist geopolitical work has developed. MA 01610. 18:751–758. and praxis into geopolitical analysis. INTRODUCTION In the years since Dowler and Sharp1 and Hyndman2 called for the integration of feminist theory. This introduction provides an overview of the field of feminist geopolitics and situates the contributions of the articles that follow.3 This broad and growing body of scholarship challenges the dominant scale of traditional geopolitical inquiry. First.816842 INTRODUCTION TO THE SPECIAL SECTION Feminist Geopolitics: Unpacking (In)Security. We argue that the contributions to the section push the field in two distinct ways. USA. E-mail: jiwilliams@clarku. This special section illustrates the continued Address correspondence to Jill Williams.

illustrating how even the seemingly apolitical and intimate sites of the home and body are fundamental loci at which geopolitical power is made and contested. and dispossession. state territorialisation. widespread state practices of risk-based surveillance and detention. everyday practices and are experienced in uneven ways depending on one’s social positioning. intimate partner violence. the articles that compose this special section further challenge how security and securitisation are conceptualised in mainstream geopolitical literature. intimate partner violence. spaces.g. In addition to highlighting the analytically astute and empirically rich work being done by feminist political geographers. most often the economically and politically privileged. the contributions to this section draw attention to the ways in which (in)security is continually produced.Downloaded by [Newcastle University] at 04:10 12 August 2015 752 Jill Williams and Vanessa Massaro utility of a feminist geopolitical approach through analyses of processes of securitisation and their uneven effects. disrupting . or new military technologies (e. drawing attention to the unexpected sites and subjects of securitisation. and subjectivities become targets of regulation and surveillance in the name of ensuring ‘security’ (e.6 In exploring issues of securitisation and (in)security. Through analyses of a wide range of topics including tourism. Feminist geopolitical scholarship (and related work in the fields of feminist international relations and feminist political geography more broadly) has long challenged the boundaries of the (geo)political. this special section further contributes to understandings of securitisation by attending to everyday. community organising) with wider geopolitical processes and discourses of securitisation. Much mainstream scholarship on securitisation takes a top-down and state-centric approach by studying discourses at the global scale. Contributors to this section continue to disrupt the boundaries and scales of the geopolitical in linking seemingly local phenomenon and experiences (e. economic. literacy classes.g. and other axes of difference. lived experiences of (in)security.. physical.g. interconnected scales. politics and economics across the globe. negotiated. Utilising situated. In contrast.g. ethnography. gender-based development.4 Geographers have been at the forefront of tracing such processes and linking them to questions of power. Securitisation refers to diverse processes through which issues. embodied methodologies (e.5 Feminist geographers in particular have pointed to the ways in which these processes shape and are shaped by banal... in-depth interviews. drones).. participant observation) the contributors to this section highlight how efforts to ‘secure’ and ‘protect’ simultaneously create a diversity of insecurities for women and otherwise marginalised populations and reinforce hierarchical power relations based on gender. and contested at multiple. race. this section also offers an important contribution to the field of feminist geopolitics by pressing the boundaries of what counts as both geopolitics and feminist analysis. cultural) for particular populations.

participant observation. Downloaded by [Newcastle University] at 04:10 12 August 2015 ATTENDING TO DIFFERENCE.Feminist Geopolitics 753 overly simplistic global/local binaries. feminist work in the field of geopolitics aims to move beyond critique. feminist scholars suggested that a re-scaling of geopolitical analysis was necessary.11 A central way in which feminist geopolitical scholarship aims to animate social change is by attending to the entangled relationship between discourse and materiality.10 Through reflexive and collaborative methodological approaches including ethnography. we situate the contributions made by the articles and the special section as a whole within the field of feminist geopolitics and geography more broadly. In what follows. and Culture highlights the role of research praxis in producing feminist geopolitics as they emphasise the ethics of care central to feminist methodological approaches.8 In re-scaling geopolitical inquiry feminist scholars attended to the uneven ways in which geopolitical processes shape the lives of differently situated populations. struggle. the 2011 special section “Feminist Engagements with Geopolitics” in Gender. In illustrating the varied sites. drawing attention to how even the most intimate and everyday aspects of life are key sites where geopolitical power is (re)produced and negotiated. offering only a “disembodied critical practice”. feminist geopolitics aims to ground geopolitical discourse in practice and place “to link international representation to the geographies of everyday life. to understand the ways in which the nation and the international are reproduced in the mundane practices we take for granted”. Feminist scholars argued that poststructural analyses of geopolitical relations failed to link the discursive realm of representation to the lived realities of individuals and communities. feminist examinations of the geopolitical draw what Cindi Katz refers to as counter-topographical lines of connection. in-depth interviews. While Dalby and others have illustrated how gendered . Place. providing “the vitality to animate social change”. and resistance – lines that are necessary for imagining and enacting creative social change.9 In drawing on a wide range of feminist theoretical and methodological insights. As Dowler and Sharp discussed.7 Instead. processes and subjectivities through which global power is forged. ANIMATING SOCIAL CHANGE Feminist geopolitics first emerged as a critique of the cultural turn in political geography and the deconstructive tendencies of critical geopolitical scholarship. and collaboration with nongovernmental organisations and social movements. feminist geopolitical scholars highlight the complex topographies and cartographies of global power as it reverberates dialectically through everyday life. For example. They argued that attending to the everyday and embodied sites at which geopolitical relations are made and contested would enable more politically powerful and relevant analyses.

Feminist approaches to geopolitical analysis increasingly apply an intersectional framework. and discourses are key to the articulation of global politics. the symbolic and the experiential. the articles trace the way security manifests and coproduces insecurity in order to make visible what is oft rendered invisible in securitisation and hegemonic geopolitical discourse.Downloaded by [Newcastle University] at 04:10 12 August 2015 754 Jill Williams and Vanessa Massaro tropes. though often unexamined.g. The articles in this special section advance feminist geopolitical scholarship by rigorously interrogating the concept of security in relation to ongoing processes of securitisation. gender. ideologies. Feminist geopolitical scholarship thus illustrates how discourse shapes the everyday. an intersectional feminist analysis examines how intersecting forms of difference (e. and related discourses.13 It is this linking of the discursive and material. class. feminist geopolitics has been a useful analytic for understanding transnational economic and political processes and the (re)production of hegemonic power relations. Ojeda.. sexuality) shape geopolitical relations and the daily lives of differently situated individuals and communities. Attending to the paradoxes and complications that arise when geopolitical discourse meets everyday life creates challenges for imagining political solutions that do not unintentionally reproduce the very power relations we aim to challenge. race. postcolonial. Collectively. In recent years.12 feminist theory is particularly well suited to take the poststructural attention to discourse a step further. the contributions by Dowler. many of the articles in this special section explore the centrality of identity-based discourses in shaping the rhetorical frameworks through which securitisation is justified. and Clark draw important. Each article ultimately questions the type of security being created in a given context and for whom this security applies. We believe that it is precisely this attention to complexity that makes feminist geopolitical analysis both intellectually provocative and politically transformative. that enables feminist geopolitical analyses to be more than critical practice or armchair theorising. feminist scholars have drawn on critical race. and queer theory to move past ‘women’ and gender as the sole or primary focus of analysis. shape and are shaped by geopolitical processes. The articles in this special section extend feminist geopolitical scholarship in two distinct ways. sexuality).14 Thus. In their respective analyses of tourism as an economic development strategy embedded within processes of both peace and militarised violences . instead turning attention to the reproduction of global power and how such forces constitute and reinforce socially produced and embodied differences (e. connections between geopolitical and geoeconomic processes. In turn. race. explicitly tracing how various forms of socially produced and embodied difference. class. First.. gender. Doshi and Casolo. By drawing attention to the less visible and marginalised sites of geopolitical contestation and mobilising an intersectional approach. material lives of differently situated populations in ways that both enable and constrain political action.g.

unhinges hospitality from binary linkings of scale and gender and ultimately shows the utility of a prolonged feminist geopolitical lens and research methodology. Drawing on twenty years of ethnographic fieldwork in West Belfast. processes of securitisation and “touristification” combine to create a new cartography of security and leisure that underpins the myth of a post-conflict Colombia. Drawing on extensive fieldwork in urban southeast Turkey. she unpacks the . Jennifer Casolo and Sapana Doshi combine their extensive research working in rural Guatemala and Mumbai. her paper builds on her many and varied contributions to both feminist geopolitics and understandings of the specific. she argues that the development of particular tourism efforts illustrates a mode of hospitality that functions as a means of overcoming past conflicts. Rather than reproducing geopolitical discourses of Irish nationalism and British loyalism. but also between once rival communities. Dowler and Ojeda each draw attention to the complicated processes through which spaces for tourism are produced. Ojeda argues that tourism is an everyday geopolitical project through which imaginative and material geographies of (in)security have been forged by the Colombian state. In doing so. As she shows. to connect the geo-economic with the geopolitical.. journalists. Dowler’s analysis “reveals a fluid understanding of hospitality that promotes individuals’ confidence and security while minimizing fear in interactions not only between host and visitor. Casolo and Doshi not only put feminist theory to work in understanding their empirical cases.Downloaded by [Newcastle University] at 04:10 12 August 2015 Feminist Geopolitics 755 in Northern Ireland and Colombia. human rights activists). They argue that a feminist analytic is crucial for understanding processes of dispossession and the production of insecurity because “neoliberal development operates through the production of differences and harnesses subjectivities that may domesticate dissent and/or foment confrontation”. they open new sites for resistance and possibility in the struggle against accumulation by dispossession. but also offer up an example of collaborative feminist praxis – drawing counter-topographical lines of connection across their disparate sites and enacting feminist collaborative practice by knitting their research together. Dowler’s piece similarly examines the role of tourism and hospitality in a post-conflict context. everyday geopolitics of West Belfast. sketching out what they term a ‘transnational feminist geopolitics’. India.g.” Most notably. Ojeda illustrates how efforts to secure tourists (and the capital they bring) is made possible through practices of forced displacement and surveillance that create insecurities for non-tourist bodies (e. political activists. Thus a transnational feminist geopolitics attends to the way in which difference is both mobilised and produced via transnational economic transformations and resistances to them. Dowler disrupts the gendering of the local and the global. In so doing. Clark contributes to feminist analyses of gender-based development programmes and their relationship to processes of state securitisation efforts. union workers. In examining the state securitisation project Democratic Security.

Cuomo notes the inability to attend to victims’ multiple and varying security needs ultimately means masculinist protection “can paradoxically result in decreased security and increased fear for those whom the arrest is purported to protect.. Cuomo demonstrates the hyper-focus of physical security enacted through a logic of masculinist protection. fail to speak to the everyday realities of Kurdish women. communities. Namely. it effectively erases a range of other possible securities. Her paper draws important lines of solidarity across scales and experiences by rethinking both security and the logic of protection that pervades all of our lives. Laliberté. and relationships of all kinds. Second. leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). including emotional. Laliberté links geopolitical discourses that are used to explain violence and unrest in Northern Uganda to the situated people and places that are made insecure by these discourses. In her analysis of intimate partner violence. Cuomo draws on the logic of masculinist protection. In doing so. and how it functions to not only justify the Ugandan government’s approach to ending conflict (e. militarised intervention) but also serves to ‘other’ the people and places associated with Kony.Downloaded by [Newcastle University] at 04:10 12 August 2015 756 Jill Williams and Vanessa Massaro everyday effects of state development programmes for Kurdish women. Clark illustrates how development programmes.” Her application of a feminist geopolitical analytic to security sited at the intimate first helps unpack a problematic approach to intimate partner violence in the United States. and perhaps more importantly. Laliberté illustrates how security practices . and the courtroom. the papers by Cuomo. the very programmes aimed at creating economic and national security for the nation-state via the development of the individual. By linking this representation of Kony to the ways in which it shapes the everyday lives of individuals from his hometown and ethnic group. she develops a ‘relational geography of human security’ through the concept of care. outlined by Iris Marion Young. produce a whole set of insecurities for the women who are both the objects and subjects of development interventions. An individualistic security framework that assumes a detached. the home. to link intimate partner violence in Centre County. In her paper. her work connects this logic to global discourses of protection and subsequent military domination across the globe. and the liberal discourses in which they are founded. In turn. Pennsylvania with global security interventions. This approach not only stifles the agency of violence survivors. In doing so. mental. By tracing the ways in which women differentially experience the classroom. and Williams and Boyce further push us to reconsider the boundaries of the geopolitical. The second set of articles extends feminist geopolitical scholarship by further excavating the dialectical relationship between geopolitical processes and everyday life. free-floating individual fails to account for the various ways in which individuals are situated within families. and financial security. ultimately questioning the efficacy of state efforts to create ‘security’ through gender-based development programmes. she traces the monster narrative surrounding Joseph Kony.g.

‘Mind the Gap: Bridging Feminist and Political Geography through Geopolitics’. vols. their paper helps us understand the relationship between emotion. Lorraine Dowler and Joanne Sharp. and Melissa Wright for guidance and feedback while putting together this special section. and Culture 18/4 (2011) pp. Gender. the contributions to this special section highlight the utility of feminist geopolitical approaches for gaining analytic clarity and thinking through positive social change. In their attention to the everyday lived experiences of people on the border. as many of the case studies discussed here illustrate. Space & Polity 5/3 (2001) pp. affect and political action in such a way as to chart a path toward new geopolitical configurations on the US/Mexico border. 165–176. Rachel Pain and Susan J. Deborah Dixon and Sallie Marston. 2. Place. Smith. ‘Introduction: The Global & the Intimate’. 13–24. and the emotional and affective experiences of those in the US-Mexico borderlands. Their case is situated at the complex intersection between affect and emotion and demonstrates the way fear and insecurity are reproduced through policy and enforcement. The outcome of emotionally motivated policy transformations is border and immigration enforcement efforts that aim to quell the discomfort of some while creating a whole range of new insecurities. ‘A Feminist Geopolitics?’. Rather. NOTES 1. Women’s Studies Quarterly 34/1-2 (2006) pp. (Burlington: Ashgate 2008) pp. as Koopman has argued. 307–322. .).15 feminist geopolitics does not just happen on the pages of academic journals or in the ivory towers of the global north. Fear: Critical Geopolitics and Everyday Life. feminist geopolitical transformation is happening in streets. Williams and Boyce contribute to the emerging field of emotional geopolitics through an examination of the dialectical relationship between geopolitical transformation. However. ‘Fear: Critical Geopolitics and Everyday Life’. Deb Cowen. namely militarised border enforcement. Taken together. which is then ironically used to justify further securitisation efforts. 3. Lorraine Dowler. Geraldine Pratt and Victoria Rosner. 445–453. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The authors would like to thank Simon Dalby. ‘Introduction: Feminist Engagements with Geopolitics’. and communities throughout the world as individuals and communities come together to create new forms of security that challenge hegemonic geopolitical powers and make the everyday more livable for even the most marginalised. in Rachel Pain and Susan Smith (Eds. 1–24.Downloaded by [Newcastle University] at 04:10 12 August 2015 Feminist Geopolitics 757 aimed at defeating a monster create insecurity for those often most affected by the monster in question. Jennifer Hyndman. Political Geography 23 (2004) pp. homes.

Smith (note 6). Antipode 41/1 (2009) pp. 357–383. and Violence against Women of Color’. ‘Gender and Critical Geopolitics: Reading Security Discourse in the New World Disorder’. . 446–463. 9. 49–69. Geoforum 42/3 (2011) pp. 272–282. Quoted in Melissa Wright. ‘Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality. 17–34. 871–890. ‘Bombs. Disposable Women and Other Myths of Global Capitalism (New York: Routledge 2006). Antipodefoundation. ‘Algorithmic War: Everyday Geographies of the War on Terror’. Lauren Martin. Geraldine Pratt. Antipode 41/1 (2009) pp. 274–284. in Derek Gregory and Allan Pred (Eds. 5. Place & Culture 18/4 (2011) pp. ‘Feminist Approaches to the Global Intimate’. ‘Banal Terrorism: Spatial Fetishism and Everyday Insecurity’. Holger Stritzel. 6. Ole Wver. ‘Intervention: Homeland Security and the Precarity of Life in the Borderlands’. Jennifer Fluri. Terror. Hyndman (note 2) pp. and Political Violence. 1213–1234. 259–265. 10. 1052–1078. 11. Alison Mountz. Pratt and Rosner (note 3). 310–311. and the Politics of Empowerment. Louise Amoore. vols. 349–361. and Reproductive Bodies in Ladakh Leh’. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge. European Journal of International Relations 13/3 (2007) pp. Bodies. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 102/6 (2012). ‘Laboratories of War: United States-Israeli Collaboration in Urban War and Securitization’. 519–536. 15. Cindi Katz. Combahee River Collective. Identity Politics. Stephen Graham. Consciousness. Social and Cultural Geography 11/1 (2010) pp. and Biopolitics: Securitizing the Subject at the Airport Security Checkpoint’. ‘‘Trash-Talk’ and the Production of Quotidian Geopolitical Boundaries in the US-Mexico Borderlands’.Downloaded by [Newcastle University] at 04:10 12 August 2015 758 Jill Williams and Vanessa Massaro 4. Antipode 37/5 (2005) pp. Gender. and Jaap De Wilde. 7. 171.). Geoffrey Boyce and Jill Williams. ‘Alter-Geopolitics: Other Securities Are Happening’. ‘Abandoned Women and Spaces of Exception’. ‘Intimate Geopolitics: Religion. Sara Smith. ‘On the Grounds of Globalization: A Topography for Feminist Political Engagement’. ‘Gender and Geography: Knowledge and Activism across the Intimately Global’. ‘The Combahee River Collective Statement’. ‘Towards a Theory of Securitization: Copenhagen and Beyond’. (New York: Routledge 2007) pp. in Barbara Smith (Ed. 1241–1299. Dowler and Sharp (note 1) p. 2nd ed. ‘Armored Peacocks and Proxy Bodies: Gender Geopolitics in Aid/Development Spaces of Afghanistan’. ‘After Geopolitics? From the Geopolitical Social to Geoeconomics’. Political Geography 28 (2009) pp. (New York: Routledge 2000).). Cindi Katz. Melissa Wright. Barry Buzan. Juanita Sundberg. Simon Dalby. 12. Security: A New Framework for Analysis (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers 1998). 379. 13. Patricia Hill Collins. Kimberle Crenshaw. 22–48. Mountz and Hyndman (note 6) pp. Dixon and Marston (note 3). Brown Journal of World Affairs 17/1 (2010) p. Signs 26/4 (2001) pp. 14. 446–463. Jennifer (2012). Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 12/5 (1994) pp. Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (New Brunswick: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press 1977) pp. Marriage. Violent Geographies: Fear. For example. 8. Social and Cultural Geography 9/8 (2008) pp. Deborah Cowen and Neil Smith. Progress in Human Geography 33/3 (2008) p. 595–612. Sara Koopman. 35. ‘Geopolitics of Gender and Violence ‘from Below’’. Women’s Studies Quarterly 34/1-2 (2006) pp. and Jennifer Hyndman. Stanford Law Review 43/6 (1991) pp.