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Public narratives as symbolic resources for gender and development: a case study of women and community radio in South Sudan

LeRoux-Rutledge, Emily (2016) Public narratives as symbolic resources for gender and development: a case study of women and community radio in South Sudan. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.x0bmnoeuodxk

Abstract

This thesis seeks to understand how public narratives about women facilitate and constrain the achievement of gender and development goals, using South Sudan as a case study. The international community is committed to achieving gender and development goals such as women’s empowerment, education and employment. The gender and development literature suggests that realising such goals requires understanding local cultural contexts. In particular, the literature often views traditional elements of local cultural context as obstacles (although some critical scholars question the idea of a traditional-modern binary). The gender and development literature has conceptualised local cultural context in various ways but has rarely considered public narratives about women – shared narratives larger than the single individual – which frame possibilities for action. Public narratives allow for a comprehensive understanding of culture and account for its temporality. Drawing on focus groups, interviews and radio programmes from rural South Sudan – a country where there is still much to achieve in gender and development terms – this thesis first examines what public narratives about women exist in rural South Sudan and how women use them in their lives. To examine the ways in which they facilitate and constrain the achievement of gender and development goals, it then looks at their use in two symbolic sites: the content broadcast on NGO-funded community radio and the community discussions engendered by such content. Thirteen public narratives about women are identified, which the South Sudanese themselves describe as either “modern” or “traditional”, and which women draw on to deal with a range of life concerns. Interestingly, on community radio, both modern and traditional narratives are used to argue for gender and development goals. Similarly, in discussions among community members, those who argue for gender and development goals use both modern and traditional narratives, while those who argue against use only traditional narratives. These findings suggest that a public narrative approach is well suited to illuminate the complexities and contradictions of local cultural context; they also suggest that a traditional-modern dichotomy should be taken seriously, as it can have meaning for people in certain places. Finally, they show that traditional elements of local cultural context do not necessarily constitute barriers to the achievement of gender and development goals. Rather, they can be used to reimagine gender and development goals in ways that are locally and culturally relevant.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Emily LeRoux-Rutledge
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Sets: Departments > Social Psychology
Supervisor: Campbell, Catherine
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3548

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