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Military Institutions as Gender Actors

Adele Stanislaus
University of Surrey
Adele Stanislaus
University of Surrey
Open Panel

Abstract

This paper explores the institutionalisation of military masculinity in Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Given the historical relationship between the military and the state, and the central position the state occupies in international relations, understanding seemingly ineradicable nature of military masculinity adds to our knowledge of hegemonic masculinities in international relations and global politics. Although women have a historical and complex relationship to armies, men and masculinity prevailed in the modern state''s armed forces. The absence of a historical narrative about women''s participation reproduces a number of strategic silences and hegemonic power structures. For instance, little is known about women disguissd as cross dressers who functioned as soldiers and military officers. A Butlerian analysis of gender applied to cross dressing military women exposes the contingency of the concept of ''femininity'' fixed to female sexed bodies, and indeed ''masculinity''. Similarly, in their capacity as camp followers women were crucial to the sustenance and the effectiveness of armies. Women''s role as camp followers conflated the personal with the needs of military institutions, ultimately consolidating gender divisions of labour. A Foucaultian analysis of the gender dynamics in early modern armies exposes how, in the process of ''disciplining'' armies into military institutions, the labour performed by women in the service of armies was usurped, and women were relatively marginalised from the military institution. Moreover, the practices of ''disciplining'' armies entrenched military masculinity and contributed to the production of a relational ''feminine''gender. Thus, the historical relationship of gender to the military points out the contingency of our understanding of gender identities, and provides a comprehensive account of how actions and practices institutionalise gender, in particular the ''masculine'' gender.