Mothering the fatherland : nationalism and gender in Eastern Europe

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Theses / Dissertations
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Master of Arts
University of Canterbury. Political Science
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Volume Title
Taylor, Sarah

Although the study of nationalism has expanded over the last decade as nationalist movements have increasingly resulted in violent conflict, constructions of gender have not been widely recognised as integral elements of these nationalist projects. Through an examination of nationalist movements in two case studies, this thesis found that gender constructions are vital to the legitimation of nationalist movements. The need to integrate gender (meaning the constructions of both men and women) into studies of nationalist movements stems from the fact that nationalism is a social phenomenon reliant on certain social norms and guidelines for its legitimacy. Nationalism and gender were examined through two thematic lenses, the politics of tradition and the politics of reproduction. The politics of tradition incorporates symbolic aspects of gender, in which the manipulation of tradition and history play a major part. The politics of reproduction are comprised of gender constructions based on the "natural" roles for men and women, such as father and mother. This section examines manifestations of gender constructions such as pronatalism and rape. These lenses were then used to examine two countries in which there were leadership legitimation crises, Romania and the former Yugoslavia. As socialist legitimacy was eroded in the 1980s, potential leaders in both countries sought to legitimate themselves through nationalist ideology. These nationalist movements, which occurred during both the late socialist and post-socialist periods, were highly gendered in their rhetoric and discourse. Gender constructions were found to be vital in the demarcation of difference between national groups, and in the mobilisation of communities to achieve national projects. The symbolic and emotive elements of these gender constructions were used to create the perception of internal and external threats. Additionally, gender constructions were found to have long-term effects on ethnic relations, and, in the case of the former Yugoslavia, on the nature of violent conflict and prospects for peace.

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Copyright Sarah Taylor