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New Directions in Women, Peace and Security$
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Soumita Basu, Paul Kirby, and Laura Shepherd

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781529207743

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781529207743.001.0001

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Between Protection and Participation: Affect, Countering Violent Extremism and the Possibility for Agency

Between Protection and Participation: Affect, Countering Violent Extremism and the Possibility for Agency

(p.91) 6 Between Protection and Participation: Affect, Countering Violent Extremism and the Possibility for Agency
New Directions in Women, Peace and Security

Elizabeth Pearson

Policy Press

In 2015, United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2242 set out the need for a gendered approach to Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) and counter terrorism. Scholars have critiqued the incorporation of gender into existing CVE programmes and on multiple grounds: CVE has instrumentalised the Women Peace and Security (WPS) agenda towards state-centric goals; it has essentialised the Muslim women (and men) it encounters; and it has framed women in need of Protection from risky men, creating tension with the space for female Participation, advocated within WPS. Violent extremism and radicalisation have so far, therefore, proved problematic frameworks for interpreting conflict-related violence and gender, given the critiques focus on the ways in which policy seeks to deny women’s agency. While acknowledging these critiques, this chapter argues for the ambiguities in Muslim women’s role in gendered CVE, which yet contains the possibility for women to exercise agency. As the soft side of counter-terrorism, gendered CVE entails partnering communities to build resilience. CVE programmes aimed at women’s participation rely on - and indeed reproduce – women’s affective relationships within a distinctly localized terrain. This chapter acknowledges this ambivalence, so far neglected in the literature, to explore how these relationships offer a new direction for the women peace and security agenda in CVE. Through a series of interviews with women in the field of CVE, the chapter explores how affective relationships underpinning the UK counter-radicalisation strategy Prevent can enable British Muslim women’s transformation of CVE; their leadership; and their participation. Women are able to both impact and progress gendered CVE, which is constituted in female agency within communities, as much as within policy, either at the UN or national level. The chapter problematises the straightforward reading of CVE as necessarily exploitative and reductive, instead revealing the ways in which women’s own community relations can produce agency and resistance, and a new path for the WPS agenda in CVE.

Keywords:   gender, P/CVE, UK Prevent Strategy, agency, women, violent extremism, counter terrorism

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