Conflict transition, emplaced identity and the gendered politics of scale in Solomon Islands

DOI10.1177/0010836720954476
Publication Date01 December 2020
AuthorNicole George
Date01 December 2020
SubjectArticles
https://doi.org/10.1177/0010836720954476
Cooperation and Conflict
2020, Vol. 55(4) 518 –534
© The Author(s) 2020
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DOI: 10.1177/0010836720954476
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Conflict transition,
emplaced identity and
the gendered politics of
scale in Solomon Islands
Nicole George
Abstract
Although there is growing recognition that women’s participation is critical for the durability
of peaceful conflict transition, grounded research examining the political scale of women’s
participation has not been common. Where feminist researchers have tackled this topic, they have
generally reproduced binary representations of political space, sometimes strongly critical of local
spaces as restrictive of women, sometimes strongly critical of a hegemonic liberal international.
In this article, I address the issue of women’s participation in conflict transition governance from
another more ethnographic angle, drawing from fieldwork conducted in the Solomon Islands, a
Pacific Islands country destabilised by conflict in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I apply theories
of political scale to consider where and how women are politically active in the conflict transition
environment, how that political activity is constituted relative to other political scales and where
and how women seek to make their political ambitions understood. The ‘emplacement’ lens I
develop offers a critical vantage point for analysis of the ways women constitute political identities
and the agendas they might meaningfully progress, at scales ranging from the small worlds of the
household and the community to the broader scale of national politics.
Keywords
Emplacement, gender, peace and security, peacebuilding, Solomon Islands, space, women
Introduction
The idea that there is a powerful relationship between women’s contributions to peace-
building, and the long-term durability of conflict transition, has become influential in
past decades (Davies and True, 2019). In large part, this momentum is due to the influ-
ence of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and the nine follow-
up resolutions that have together helped to build recognition both of women’s grassroots
Corresponding author:
Nicole George, School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane,
QLD 4072, Australia.
Email: n.george2@uq.edu.au
954476CAC0010.1177/0010836720954476Cooperation and ConflictGeorge
research-article2020
Article
George 519
conflict mediation work and the implications of this for longer-term restoration pro-
cesses. Although this recognition is significant, the presence of women in peace negotia-
tions does not easily translate into meaningful participation. This becomes particularly
clear if we examine the ways that spaces of governance are shaped by the experience of
conflict and the parameters of the liberal peacebuilding project, which often functions in
ways that privilege masculine interests.
Research on gender, conflict transition and transitional justice has tended to empha-
sise the ways that power is gendered at the local and the liberal/international level and
often characterised one or the other sphere as damaging to women’s peacebuilding
ambitions (Bell, 2018; Gibbings, 2011; Hudson, 2016; Ní Aoláin, 2018; Ní Aoláin
et al., 2011). In some accounts, the internationalised standards of liberal peacebuilding
are presented as an important counterweight to the gender-discriminatory impact of
local gendered institutions described as reinforcing patriarchal forms of authority that
diminish the standing of women (Ní Aoláin et al., 2011). In other accounts, interna-
tional influence in peacebuilding is depicted as having damaging impacts for women
because they are required to mould or shape their demands to fit the expectations of
liberal actors and political orders (De Almagro, 2018; Hudson, 2016; Shepherd, 2008).
Although the relevance is not made explicit, these arguments resonate with debates
on scale and the ordering of space and place as they have been taken up by feminist
political geographers, political scientists and more recently in peace and conflict stud-
ies. In this article, I aim to bring a focus on space and scale more prominently to debates
on gender and participation in conflict transition. To do so, I explore how ‘scaled social
processes’ feature as part of women’s political mobilisation to secure greater represen-
tation in conflict transition governance in the Solomon Islands, and how these processes
endow space with gendered meaning (Guenther, 2006: 553). I deploy an analytical
framework that sheds light on the ways political space is configured for and by women
in peacebuilding and more generally. From here, I consider how women may articulate
narratives of emplaced identity as a source of power derived from ‘their local’ and how
this informs their efforts to both rescale politics and reclaim a political power that is
denied to them at broader national levels. My objective is thus to shed light on the ways
that women may define a local ‘constellation of political power’ that is articulated as
distinct from the national (Guenther, 2006: 554) but also as a meaningful site from
which they can progress, upwards and outwards, more ethical and inclusive processes
of conflict transition nationally.
This lens is significant for two reasons. First, it offers a much-needed gendered per-
spective that extends debates on scale and conflict transition in productive ways. In par-
ticular, the gendered lens I develop here adds more nuance to arguments that commonly
explain ‘re-scaling’ or scaling down as motivated by disenfranchised local elites who
aim to redistribute resources and power downwards from the international and national
scale for narrow and potentially peace-destabilising gains (Hameiri and Scarpello, 2018).
The findings I develop here show that for women, rescaling can indeed involve the re-
imagining of local space as a gendered site power, but critically also provide impetus and
motivation for women to reflect on their strengths and capacities to progress political
reform constructively at broader scales.

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