Postwar Transformations: Women and the Work of Peace in Liberia

Open Access
Author:
Christian, Jenna Marie
Graduate Program:
Geography
Degree:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
June 22, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Lorraine Dowler, Thesis Advisor
Keywords:
  • women
  • peace
  • violence
  • feminist geopolitics
  • gender
  • Liberia
Abstract:
There has been a heightened attention to the topic of peace within geography in recent years, with calls for research pointing the need for greater analytical clarity over the concept, new inquiries into the way peace is practiced, and an exploration into the implications of peace’s definitions and practices on peoples’ lived experiences. This thesis engages with those calls through an examination of the work of peace in Liberia. This discussion of the work of peace in Liberia particularly highlights and draws from the rich history, and emotional and material labor, of women working for peace in both public and private spaces. The research draws from two months of ethnographic work and qualitative interviews with members the Liberian women’s peace movement, as well as others in government and civil society who work on peace. Throughout this grounded analysis I explore numerous meanings of ‘the work of peace’: peace as a process, a lived reality, an emotion, a platform for women’s advocacy, a livelihood in the peacebuilding and aid economy, and as a geopolitical identifier and framework for the broad transformation of society in the ‘postwar’. In examining the expansive transformations that are ushered in during the postwar in the name of building peace, I will point to the ways ‘peace’ can not only passively mask structural violence, but also the way ‘peace’ discourses and institutions can actively quell claims for justice and equality. Throughout this thesis, I will draw heavily from the insights of feminist geopolitics in order to demonstrate the importance of attending to the ways peace is experienced and mutually constituted across multiple scales and spaces. Additionally, speaking to the feminist concern for imagining and offering alternative geographies, I suggest that engaging in a process of conceptualizing peace may work as a unique tool, pushing us beyond endless critiques of violence to imagining new and better realities.