1st Edition

Political Invisibility and Mobilization Women against State Violence in Argentina, Yugoslavia, and Liberia

By Selina Gallo-Cruz Copyright 2021
    178 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    178 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Political Invisibility and Mobilization explores the unseen opportunities available to those considered irrelevant and disregarded during periods of violent repression. In a comparative study of three women’s peace movements, in Argentina, the former Yugoslavia, and Liberia, the concept of political invisibility is developed to identify the unexpected beneficial effects of marginalization in the face of regime violence and civil war.

    Each chapter details the unique ways these movements avoided being targeted as threats to regime power and how they utilized free spaces to mobilize for peace. Their organizing efforts among international networks are described as a form of field-shifting that gained them the authority to expand their work at home to bring an end to war and rebuild society. The robust conceptual framework developed herein offers new ways to analyze the variations and nuances of how social status interacts with opportunities for effective activism.

    This book presents a sophisticated theory of political invisibility with historical detail from three remarkable stories of courage in the face of atrocity. With relevance for political sociology, social movement studies, women’s studies, and peace and conflict studies, it contributes to scholarly understanding of mobilization in repressive states while also offering strategic insight to movement practitioners.

    Winner of the ASA Peace, War and Social Conflict Section's 2021 Outstanding Book Award.

    1. Introduction: Political Invisibility and Mobilization

    2. The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo

    3. The Women in Black, Serbia

    4. The Women’s Peace Movement in Liberia

    5. Marginalization and Mobilization in Movement Fields


    Selina Gallo-Cruz is an Associate Professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her research has contributed broadly to the fields of cultural, political, and global sociology, centering on questions about how cultural beliefs, values, assumptions, and practices shape social movement mobilization.

    "Selina Gallo-Cruz has woken me up. Her in-depth comparison of this trio of women's peace movements has made me think about questions I hadn't really weighed before. She traces each group from their origins, when their efforts were dismissively (patriarchally) ridiculed by repressive elites, to the moment when they gained surprising political traction, and then on to their later phases when their activists had to decide how to use their political currencies. Gallo-Cruz shows us that a long attention span is crucial for fully assessing the impact of any women-led political movement."

    Cynthia Enloe, author of The Big Push: Exposing and Challenging Persistent Patriarchy

    "In Political Invisibility and Mobilization, Selina Gallo-Cruz vividly captures the gendered dynamics of protest. Comparing peace movements in Argentina, Yugoslavia, and Liberia, she shows how societal views of women as powerless and non-threatening paradoxically created strategic leverage and space for women to mobilize locally and internationally. These women transformed inequality into empowerment, bringing an end to civil war in their homelands. This is a fascinating study of how movement repression is stratified and how civil resisters can use their invisibility to organize in highly repressive contexts. A must read for anyone interested in social movements, gender, peace studies and nonviolence!" 

    Sharon Erickson Nepstad, author of Nonviolent Struggle: Theories, Strategies, and Dynamics 

    "Political Invisibility and Mobilization brilliantly argues that the marginalized position of women in the political sphere paradoxically becomes a potent source of leverage for social movements in non-democratic societies and on the wider global stage. Gallo-Cruz draws upon rich and compelling cases from Argentina, Yugoslavia and Liberia to shed new light on the political mobilization of marginalized women. Her incisive study is a must-read for scholars interested in social movements, gender, and politics."

    Ann Hironaka, author of Tokens of Power and Neverending Wars

    "Selina Gallo-Cruz tells the compelling stories of women in repressive and unstable political situations who pushed themselves into visibility, relevance, and history. Politically marginal at the outset, these activist women were able to find and cultivate free spaces for organizing that later served as a foundation for a meaningful resistance to repression. Political Invisibility and Mobilization is ultimately indispensable."

    David S. Meyer, University of California, Irvine

    "In Political Invisibility and Mobilization, Selina Gallo-Cruz develops a ground-breaking framework for understanding how marginalized people organize under violent repression and how that organizing helps overturn regimes and shapes peacetime societies. Gallo-Cruz convincingly shows how women in Argentina, Liberia, and the former Yugoslavia leveraged their social invisibility to mobilize and, ultimately, push for increasing political power for women and national reckonings with gendered violence. The book’s vivid and compelling case studies bring the activists and their movements to life. This is a must-read for all those interested in gender, nonviolent resistance, and challenges to authoritarianism."

    Nancy Whittier, Sophia Smith Professor of Sociology, Smith College; author of Frenemies: Feminists, Conservatives, and Sexual Violence

    "Political Invisibility and Mobilization makes important empirical contributions to the social movement literature. Indeed, Gallo-Cruz further uncovers and brings attention to the often marginalized and invisible histories of women’s peace movements, challenging both the social movement and nonviolent studies literatures to be more inclusive. She also encourages scholars to overcome scholarly and societal blind spots, thus enabling a more accurate, comprehensive, and nuanced understanding of social movements."

    Michelle I. Gawerc, Loyola University Maryland