Gender as a cause of violent conflict

Elisabeth PRüGL

The article argues that gender can be understood to cause violent conflict, although the literatures on civil war and conflict transformation are largely silent on the matter. The problem is an understanding of causation as explaining regularities, which fails to grasp how gender, in intersection with other markers of difference, is productive and performative. Building on philosophical realism, the article introduces the concept of social mechanisms and reformulates it to become compatible with constructivist and poststructuralist theorizing. It develops the notion of ‘intersectionally-gendered mechanisms’ to bring into view the productive force of gender and proposes that gender, in intersection with other axes of differentiation, operates as a causal driver of violent conflicts. It suggests a pragmatist approach that understands causes as the reasons people provide for why things are happening, which connects to feminist methodologies that are committed to change and to understanding the world from situated contexts. Drawing on existing feminist literature it then identifies three exemplary intersectionally-gendered mechanisms driving conflict dynamics: masculinist protection, masculinist competition, and mobilization for survival. It concludes by drawing out the implications of this approach for mainstreaming gender into peacebuilding and conflict prevention.