Narrating in/security: women's activism in Kashmir
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This thesis explores women activists’ narratives of everyday experiences of in/security through a qualitative case study in Kashmir, northern India. In order to gather women’s in/security narratives I conducted 13 in-depth interviews and 3 focus group discussions with politically active women in Kashmir. I used techniques derived from thematic narrative analysis to analyse the data. I am particularly interested in how identity and subjectivity are constructed through processes of narratives, which are created in relation to understandings of the self and the other. This thesis provides rich narratives on how living in militarised areas influences women’s everyday experiences of in/security. The narratives emerging from the interviews highlight how experiences of in/security breach the public/private divide and merge the two spaces. As critical theories on security demonstrate, the security logic functions through processes of signification: in order to make a subject secured, it has to be represented. Drawing on feminist security studies and feminist theory, I interrogate in/security in relation to ideas of gender, identity, and subjectivity, with particular emphasis on practices of femininity. The narratives collected in this research point to that hegemonic femininity involves being a devoted, sacrificing wife/mother and a pious Muslim. Three main stories of femininity emerge. Firstly, the respectable women stories, wherein the participants emphasised doing good and working according to Islamic principles. Secondly, the heroine stories hold that the heroine is a subject in herself, as she is seeking to save other women. Lastly, the pariah stories narrated the failure of being accepted as a respectable woman and an activist. Thus, the heroine and respectable femininity stories facilitate acceptable forms of activism for women and maintain discursive constructions on the identities worthy of security, while pariah stories involve stories of women who remained outside the delineation of identities regarded merited to be secured.
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