Securing the Civilian: Sex and Gender in the Laws of War

Thursday, January 1, 2004
Author: 
Helen M. Kinsella

This paper examines the productive power of discourses of gender by analyzing a particular institution of global governance—international humanitarian law or the laws of war. I focus on the laws of war for two interdependent reasons.i First, the laws of war are a central feature of global governance. They reflect and regulate customs and practices of war among and, less
extensively, within states. The laws of war govern both the resort to force (ius ad bello) and the use of force (ius in bello). Specifically, the laws of war outline the permissible actions for states, militaries, combatants and non-combatants to take in war according to the formal classification of armed conflicts as international or non- international. As a result, the laws of war are the primary referent for the training and disciplining of those entities and, very recently, the peacekeeping troops of the United Nations.

Yet, second, precisely at the moment that the currency of the laws of war has been generally revalued, and specifically invested with newfound worth for the protection of women, the relationships among power, gender, and the laws of war are scarcely analyzed. The scholarship that does engage in an analysis of gender and the laws of war focuses primarily on the protection
of women within the law rather than the production of women in the law and, importantly, the production of the laws of war themselves. By explicitly focusing on the productive power of gender, and its relationship to structural power, I sketch the relations between different forms of power implicated in the laws of war. To presume that power should only be, or can only be, analyzed in its productive mode is to misread the work of Foucault, who is most immediately associated with this mode of
theorizing. What he proposes is a “critical investigation of the thematics of power,” an investigation that is inspired by the disarmingly simple question of “how is power exercised?”

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Securing the Civilian: Sex and Gender in the Laws of War, Helen M. Kinsella,2004