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Women combatants and gender identity in contemporary conflicts: The case of the LTTE.

Herath, Tamara (2007) Women combatants and gender identity in contemporary conflicts: The case of the LTTE. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Three decades of ethno-nationalist war in Sri Lanka has contributed to a major social change for Tamil women in Jaffna. An important component of this change has been the recruitment of women in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). This thesis explores the role of the women combatants from a gender perspective to identify how gender is constructed for women within the revolutionary movement, and the impact that construction has on civic society. The research is based on the narrative life histories of seven combatant women, one ex-combatant woman and seven civic women. In undertaking this research, the methodology had to take into account the researcher's positionality through reflexivity, and the multiple identities that link and separate the researcher and participants. Through these life histories, the thesis investigates the link between displacement to LTTE controlled areas and women's recruitment. It identifies the LTTE as providing an 'alternative' familial kinship founded upon friendship, which transcends caste and religion. It further enquires into the role of women suicide bombers, revealing a self-image of unselfish givers of a 'gift' to those they care for, including the Tamil nation. The main argument of the thesis is that combatant women's paradoxical equality may differ from Western feminist notions of emancipation but represents a profound change within Jaffna's patriarchal society. The engagement in armed conflict has transformed combatant women into female slayers of injustice and protectors of the Tamil nation, with a (re)constructed gender identity and empowerment (Ah-lu-mai). The combatant women and the war are a powerful force for change, and combatant women's alternative roles radically alter the perceptions of women in civic society. The Gender (re)construction and form of equality that both combatant and civic women achieve accelerates a social change towards a new gender identity, 'new' women (Puthumai Pen).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Gender Studies, Women's Studies, Military Studies
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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