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Essay Humanities Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

Trans- Bodies in/of War(s): Cisprivilege and Contemporary Security Strategy

By Laura J. Shepherd and Laura Sjoberg, 2012

This article explores a gendered dimension of war and conflict analysis that has up until now received little attention at the intersection of gender studies and studies of global politics: queer bodies in, and genderqueer significations of, war and conflict. In doing so, the article introduces the concept of cisprivilege to International Relations as a discipline and security studies as a core sub-field. Cisprivilege is an important, but under-explored, element of the constitution of gender and conflict. Whether it be in controversial reactions to the suggestion of United Nations Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin that airport screenings for terrorists not discriminate against transgendered people, or in structural violence that is ever-present in the daily lives of many individuals seeking to navigate the heterosexist and cissexist power structures of social and political life, war and conflict is embodied and reifies cissexism. This article makes two inter-related arguments: first, that both the invisibility of genderqueer bodies in historical accounts of warfare and the visibility of genderqueer bodies in contemporary security strategy are forms of discursive violence; and second, that these violences have specific performative functions that can and should be interrogated. After constructing these core arguments, the article explores some of the potential benefits of an interdisciplinary research agenda that moves towards the theorisation of cisprivilege in security theory and practice.

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