Masculinities and Child Soldiers in Post-Conflict Societies
MASCULINITIES AND LAW: A MULTIDIMENSIONAL APPROACH, Frank Cooper, Ann McGinley, eds., NYU Press, 2011
24 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2011
Date Written: April 6, 2011
A fairly substantial amount of literature has been generated over the years regarding the forms of masculinity that emerge in times of armed conflict and war. This war-focused literature (which links to, among other things, masculinities studies) has drawn from broader theoretical research identifying an organic link between patriarchy, its contemporary manifestations, and various forms of masculinity as they arise within societies and institutions. It builds on, and extends, the more general scholarship that has deepened our understanding of how masculinities are constructed and differentiated. While the war literature has made significant conceptual and practical use of the term "masculinity" to explore the impacts and effects of conflict, the concept has been less applied and understood to be relevant in post-conflict and transitional contexts, as societies attempt to move away from conflict. We argue that masculinities theory and its practical implications have been significantly under-utilized as a lens to explore and address the ending of hostilities in violent societies. Moreover, throughout the negotiation, reconstruction, mediation, and intervention phases, masculinities studies concepts and theorization have been underutilized and under-applied to the range of post-conflict actions and actors. Bringing masculinities into view in post-conflict settings provides a more thorough means and framework for addressing the complex social and political problems faced by societies seeking to move beyond violence. In doing so, we introduce and explore the key concepts of hegemonic and hyper-masculinity, drawing on a feminist approach to masculinities studies. We also address the complex interplay between victim and perpetrator status, and the difficulties for men in acknowledging their own experiences as victimhood. We conclude with a focus on child soldiers, one of the most visible and vulnerable populations affected by the hyper-masculinity of war. We recognize that the application of masculinities theories does not offer a “one size fits all” solution to every conflict, nor will the issues experienced by and challenging child soldiers be identical across all contexts of violent hostilities. Rather, the knowledge base is one that can widen and deepen our perspectives on child soldiers and allow for creative interventions to support the resolution of a highly complex set of social and cultural issues.
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