Performing Gendered Extremism : A gender comparative analysis of women’s roles within violent extremist groups

Mutton, Rosamund and Marsden, Sarah and Knott, Kim (2021) Performing Gendered Extremism : A gender comparative analysis of women’s roles within violent extremist groups. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Adopting a gender comparative approach, this thesis examines why roles that appear similar in type are performed differently by women across violent extremist group contexts. Prevailing narratives which implicitly gender violent extremism as inherently masculine overlook the means by which violent extremist groups use gender dynamics to inform their militancy. An absence of theory within the study of women and violent extremism has produced role typologies which descriptively categorise female participation. These produce analyses of female participation that are oversimplified. In contrast, this thesis develops a theoretically informed framework of analysis derived from a synthesis of gender performativity theory, role theory and a Communities of Practice approach. The application of this framework to female performances of four roles (motherhood; recruitment; combatant; suicide bombing) across seven case studies demonstrates how women occupy and perform their roles from a space that is distinct from male participants and civilian women. These spaces are shaped by contextual factors, organisational needs and the way roles are learned, and thus inform differences in role performances. This comparative analysis disrupts stereotypes associating masculinity with specific conceptualisations of violence. Instead, a recognition of a spectrum of gendered identities and behaviours which encapsulates femininity, furthers understandings of female participation in violent extremism as diverse and dynamic. It demonstrates that alternative performances to the masculine ‘norm’ exist and achieve a variety of specific outcomes for groups.

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Thesis (PhD)
?? genderviolent extremismperformativityrolescommunities of practice ??
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11 May 2021 16:00
Last Modified:
20 Feb 2024 00:19