UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Negotiating gender in crisis : global norms and state power in South Sudan Luedke, Alicia Elaine


Ever since the 1990s and 2000s, the aid architecture in conflict-affected states frequently contains elements related to the promotion of gender equality and the elimination of gender-based violence (GBV), usually under the broader rubric of the gender mainstreaming and Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agendas. While this has contributed to successes in ensuring that domestic discourse and policy reflect women’s rights and protections, seldom does the formalization of gender equality and the elimination of GBV translate into real improvements. Utilizing the granular details of the everyday politics of customary chiefs’ courts, the mobilization of community-embedded armed groups and the organization of urban gangs in South Sudan, this dissertation shows how international norms related to gender equality and violence get caught up in the contestation over the limits and extent of state power. It unfolds in two key ways. First, it shows how gendered inequality and violence, including conflict-related sexual violence are, in part, a function of the complex confluence of the cooptation by, and resistance to, different forms of state power over the course of the 20th century in South Sudan. Second, it shows how policy responses have tended to treat state and non-state actors as mutually exclusive, failing to recognize the contestation taking place over how authority will be configured in ways that have limited the purchase and reach of international norms. The argument and the empirical details that this dissertation relies on provide important insight into the factors that condition the movement from commitment to compliance in target states by showing how the norms that external actors promote get caught up in the very gendered ways that local politics unfolds, mediating the influence of international efforts. In so doing, it demonstrates the significance of destabilizing more conventional distinctions employed in both social constructivism and policy responses that have mostly interrogated compliance by either state or non-state actors, rather than looking at their interaction and the fluid lines between them as essential to both the understanding and resolution of compliance problems.

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