From Politics to Deviance: The Gender of Violence at the Height of The Troubles
The participation of women in political movements that are characterized in part by their violent actions raises fundamental questions in the field of gender studies and social sciences. Their presence in hard-line, often left-wing political movements in Northern Ireland, France, South America or Palestine has raised academic interest in the study of gender and deviance.1 The sexual division of labour and social spaces on the one hand, and the stereotypical binary characteristics attributed to the masculine and the feminine on the other, are among the issues challenged by women taking part in political and military activism and/or endorsing violent actions. Women’s ‘deviance’ and its reception on multiple levels raise questions of power and agency, hierarchy and gender difference, making this a particularly rich subject for feminists.2
Due to their activity on the margin of legality, the role of women in paramilitary movements in Northern Ireland has been difficult to research from a sociological perspective. Most approaches have involved a retracing ← 199 | 200 → of the trajectories of women who engage in paramilitary activity as well as analysis of the effect of such commitment on their social role, individual and communal identity, and perception of self.3 However, as Maritza Felices-Luna points out, while most of the work on the subject has focused on the ‘causes’ or the ‘normality’ of women’s engagement, there has been no sociological analysis of their participation and contribution as actors in military and violent activities.4 Because the prisons came to occupy a central place...
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