Working Paper No 9 - Women in Land Struggles: The Implications of Female Activism and Emotional Resistance for Gender Equity
Anne Hennings – 2019
Despite deeply engrained images of female domesticity and conventional gender norms, women are increasingly joining land struggles in Cambodia. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, my findings suggest that land rights activism in Cambodia has undergone a gendered re-framing process. Reasoning that women tend to use non-violent means of contestation and are less prone to violent responses from security personnel, nongovernmental organizations push women affected by land grabs and eviction to the frontline of protests. Moreover, female activists are encouraged to publicly display emotions such as sorrow and pain, in sharp contrast with the notion of feminine modesty. I critically question the women-to-the-front strategy and, drawing on Sara Ahmed's politics of emotions, show the adverse risks for female activists. Following that, I argue that the instrumentalization of female bodies and emotions in land rights protests perpetuates gender disparities instead of strengthening female agency in Cambodian society or opening up political space for women.