Sexing War/Policing Gender: Motherhood, myth and women’s political violence, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Sexing War/Policing Gender

Motherhood, myth and women’s political violence, 1st Edition

By Linda Åhäll


168 pages

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Historically, there has been reluctance, from mainstream IR scholars as well as feminists, to seriously engage with women’s agency in warfare. Instead, scholarship has tended to focus on women’s activism for peace or to ignore women’s agency altogether.

This book rectifies this omission by exploring the cultural understanding of actors, agents and structures of war and how can we make sense of attitudes towards women, agency and war today. By using a poststructuralist feminist perspective and by analysing empirical cases from a Western ‘war on terror’ cultural context, Ahall argues that all types of stories are informed by ideas about motherhood and maternal reproduction as the foundation of sexual difference. This does not only mean that women are judged/read/valued based on the shape of their, maternalised, bodies, rather than what they actually do, but, it means that ideas about motherhood, not motherhood itself, function to police contemporary gender norms and contemporary understandings of agency in war. Overall, this book argues that maternalist war stories function to reiterate traditional heteronormative gender roles. This is how a ‘body politics’ of war is not only policing gender norms but actually writing ‘sex’ itself. The body politics of war told through maternalist war stories is a process in which the sexing of war means the policing of gender borders, with motherhood acting as the border agent.

This work will be of interest to students and scholars in areas such as gender, political violence and international relations.


Overall, the book presents interesting case studies and an eclectic methodology. The book is well structured, the conceptual connections are made easy to follow and are well linked to the case studies. Thus making the book highly recommended for students and scholars interested in gender and political communication, visual culture and the politics of emotions, Barthesian methodological approaches to the discipline of international relations, and the relation between world politics and popular culture. - Foucault, M

Table of Contents

Introduction: Securitising Feminism or Feminist Security Studies?, Chapter 1: Stories of Motherhood, Agency and War, Chapter 2: Gender, Security and Popular Culture: A methodological approach, CAST: Empirical cases and list of characters, Chapter 4: Heroic Subjects, Chapter 5: Monstrous Abjects, Conclusion: Making Feminist Sense of Maternalist War Stories

About the Author

Linda Ahall is a Lecturer in International Relations at Keele University.

About the Series

Popular Culture and World Politics

The Popular Culture World Politics (PCWP) book series is the forum for leading interdisciplinary research that explores the profound and diverse interconnections between popular culture and world politics. It aims to bring further innovation, rigor, and recognition to this emerging sub-field of international relations.

To these ends, the PCWP series is interested in various themes, from the juxtaposition of cultural artefacts that are increasingly global in scope and regional, local and domestic forms of production, distribution and consumption; to the confrontations between cultural life and global political, social, and economic forces; to the new or emergent forms of politics that result from the rescaling or internationalization of popular culture.

Similarly, the PCWP series wishes to provide a venue for work that explores the effects of new technologies and new media on established practices of representation and the making of political meaning. It encourages engagement with popular culture as a means for contesting powerful narratives of particular events and political settlements as well as explorations of the ways that popular culture informs mainstream political discourse. The PCWP series promotes investigation into how popular culture contributes to changing perceptions of time, space, scale, identity, and participation while establishing the outer limits of what is popularly understood as ‘political’ or ‘cultural’.

In addition to film, television, literature, and art, the PCWP series actively encourages research into diverse artefacts including sound, music, food cultures, gaming, design, architecture, programming, leisure, sport, fandom and celebrity. The series is fiercely pluralist in its approaches to the study of popular culture and world politics and is interested in the past, present, and future cultural dimensions of hegemony, resistance and power.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies