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5.0 out of 5 stars The Best General Work Of Feminism In IR?, 7 Jan 2009
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This review is from: Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives (Paperback)
Quite possibly the best general work of feminist thought in IR. Maneuvers is a rare beast in academic writing - hugely informed (indeed packed with references), politically engaged and clearly written, it covers the full range of issues that interest feminists working in international politics today, all under the uniting rubric of the militarisation of women's lives. The links between militarised prostitution and rape, debates over gay men and women in the US military, the extents to which military planners think about reinforcing ideals of masculine and feminine personhood when designing uniforms, war rape in its multiple guises, a fresh look at the history of Florence Nightingale, a consideration of prostitution's link to tourism via the groundwork laid by US involvement in South East Asia in the mid-20th century, the pitfalls of militarised motherhood and militarised citizenship, and more. Throughout, Enloe draws on complicated histories for examples that add a hugely convincing depth to the general outlook, whether in examining co-opted mothers in Israel or how women have mobilised against military prostitution in Korea and the Philippines. All enhanced by an engaging and pluralistic writing style.

Any work this broad in scope and this accessible to the sceptic or the novice will have pitfalls. For those already sensitive to the varieties of feminism or already convinced by the case for attention to the historical silences of IR there will be some retreading of old ground (although the walk is pleasant). Others may have hoped for a longer and deeper treatment of one particular subject (although there is plenty here to reinvigorate even the most informed of readers). Non-American readers, in particular, will probably share my view that there is a little too much attention to debates over gay men and women in the US military and whether or not American soldiers are allowed to marry, even if these issues have been central in developing a feminist engagement with the problems of militarisation. Finally, the theoretically-minded will pine for a discussion of Judith Butler or bell hooks in all this detail and politics. They will have to look elsewhere.

But these critiques are all asking Maneuvers to be a different book or the world to be a different place. So long as we have the world we do, Enloe's broad-but-deep, informed-but-engaged, historical-but-political offering will be a necessary stopping point for anyone interested in these issues.

Any work this broad in scope and this accessible to the sceptic or the novice will have pitfalls. For those already sensitive to the varieties of feminism or already convinced by the case for attention to the historical silences of IR will have to retread some old group (although the walk is pleasant). Others may have hoped for a longer and deeper treatment of one particular subject (although there is plenty here to reinvigorate even the most informed of readers). Non-American readers, in particular, will probably share my view that there is a little too much attention to debates over gay men and women in the military and whether or not US soldiers are allowed to marry, even if these issues have been central in developing a feminist engagement with the problems of militarisation. Finally, the theoretically-minded will pine for a discussion of Judith Butler or bell hooks in all this detail and politics.

But these critiques are all asking Maneuvers to be a different book or the world to be a different place. So long as we have the world we do, Enloe's broad-but-deep, informed-but-engaged, historical-but-political offering will be a necessary stopping point for anyone interested in these issues.
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