Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Training gender: Discursive analysis

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posted on 2021-11-23, 12:17 authored by Lobrot, Sarah

The aim of this thesis is to examine the discursive practices that have arisen from gender training in peace operations with the following research questions: “how is the discourse of ‘gender-awareness’ constructed through UN gender-training material for peacekeepers? How does this discourse contribute to further shaping representations of gender, violence and security?” To help answer my research questions, I proceed to a discourse analysis of the gender-training package created in 2001 by the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UN DPKO) called Gender and Peacekeeping In-Mission Training.  The analytical frameworks chosen for this research paper are Michel Foucault’s notion of discourse and Laura Shepherd’s ‘analytical strategies’. Using Foucault’s understanding of discourse, this paper examines the social practices of gender in the military field (peace and security): how are these social practices embedded in knowledge (in what ways are the notions of gender approached? Do they form a universal truth?)? How does this discourse act through and upon subjects (male and female peacekeepers)?  Building on Shepherd’s work, this thesis seeks to interrogate and deconstruct the concept of ‘gender-awareness’ in the UN training material around three dominant discursive sites (called Shepherd’s ‘nodal points’): [1] ‘how the relations between women and men are structured’ (gender), [2] ‘how they are affected by violent conflict’ (gender and violence), and [3] ‘how the mere presence of peacekeepers further impacts on those relations’ (gender, violence and security).  The literature review first addresses the construction of feminities and masculinities in war and peace. It demonstrates that women are constructed as being ‘peacemakers’ and that their feminity is shaped as being ‘peaceful’ and as ‘mother of the nation’ whilst masculinities are shaped through war. Secondly, it looks at the ways in which gender has been integrated (or mainstreamed) into UN policies: showing gender as a synonym for women.  The research discovers that ‘gender-awareness’ as a discourse in the UN gender-training material is composed of: [1] gender that equates ‘sex’ and ‘women’, [2] the dichotomy between women positioned as ‘victims’ and men as ‘heroes’ (expected normal behaviour) and [3] universals such as women’s rights, which ignore cultural contexts in their approach to gender. The paper also further investigates the discourse of ‘gender-awareness training’, which I argue has been established as a ‘tool’ in the military field, but not as a critical concept. This tool seeks to produce understanding (knowledge, i.e. what is produced as truth) of gender, violence and security and to regulate the agents’ (i.e. male peacekeepers’) behaviours.  These findings are important as they add to the literature which demonstrates how gender is de-politicised while sex is politicised and how women are excluded from both the realm of peace (security) and the realm of war (violence). It reinforces the idea that discourse is repeated and that for the UN to (re-)think gender in meaningful and creative ways, it becomes necessary to deconstruct the way power structures are shared.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

International Relations

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of International Relations

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970120 Expanding Knowledge in Languages, Communication and Culture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Mackenzie, Megan