Men, masculinity and global insecurity: fighting for and against Islamic State

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In recent years, the rise of Islamic State (IS) and their high-profile use of extreme violence in Syria has been used to shock the public and, in turn, stimulate a militarized response from the wider international community. For many, the violence perpetrated by IS exemplifies a deeply visceral form of insecurity, where the use of social media by the group renders horrific imagery instantly accessible to its geographically disparate audience. What most analyses of this and other contemporary conflicts miss is that gender is vital to thinking about what violence is in global politics, and that conflict should often be viewed in light of what I call the men-masculinity-security nexus. In this chapter, discussion of men, masculinity, and global insecurity is organized into three main sections. It opens with an overview of men and (in)security in global politics before considering complexity in gender identity alongside feminist-influenced explanations for insecurity. It then considers a binary marked by forms of ‘bestial’ masculinity, contrasting a beheading video at one end of the spectrum with an account of a rational and heroic former soldier who travels to fight the ‘extremists’. Finally, in moving beyond the oppositional framing of these groups as ‘uncivilized’ and ‘civilized’, respectively, this chapter argues that, when viewed through the lens of masculinity, there is a good degree of commonality in gendered identity and practice across contexts. The particular commonality on which it focuses is the common perception that militarized violence is effective and desirable. Varied claims to state or non-state group masculinity are manifested in fairly similar resorts to violence – a perception that can inspire violent cycles of insecurity. The chapter concludes by considering the nexus linking masculinity, insecurity and global politics theoretically. © 2019 selection and editorial matter, Caron E. Gentry, Laura J.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of Gender and Security
EditorsLaura Sjoberg, Caron Gentry, Laura Shepherd
Place of PublicationLondon, U. K.
ISBN (Print)9781315525082
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


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