Review of International Studies

Research Article

Gendered practices of counterinsurgency



Current US counterinsurgency doctrine is gendered diversely in the different geographic locations where it is formulated, put in practice, and experienced. Where Iraqi and Afghan populations are subjected to counterinsurgency and its attendant development policy, spaces are made legible in gendered ways, and people are targeted – for violence or ‘nation-building’ – on the basis of gender-categorisation. Second, this gendering takes its most incendiary form in the seam of encounter between counterinsurgent foot-soldiers and the locals, where sexuality is weaponised and gender is most starkly cross-hatched with class and race. Finally, in the Metropole, new masculinities and femininities are forged in the domain of counterinsurgency policymaking: While new soldier-scholars represent a softened masculinity, counterinsurgent women increasingly become visible in policy circles, with both using ostensibly feminist justifications for their involvement.

(Online publication November 29 2010)

Laleh Khalili is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, the author of Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Commemoration (Cambridge, 2007), and a co-editor of Policing and Prisons in the Modern Middle East (Hurst/Columbia University Press, 2010). She is completing a manuscript titled Time in the Shadows: Incarceration in Counterinsurgencies.