Beyond the Ethnonational Divide: Identity Politics and Women in Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine

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Byrne, Siobhan
Women , Northern Ireland , Israel , Palestine , Peace-Building
"Beyond the Ethnonational Divide: Identity Politics and Women in Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine" is a comparative analysis of the conflict resolution processes and peace-building strategies employed in Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine, focusing on the experiences of women’s feminist peace movements. I draw on feminist thought in the international relations and comparative politics literatures, as well as the critical identity politics literatures developed outside these fields, to demonstrate the value of broadening our understanding of social identity in conflict. In particular, I apply a post-positivist realist approach to identity to evaluate the extent to which women’s feminist peace communities develop untested ideas related to conflict resolution and peace-building in these cases. I argue that the dominant ethnonational conflict resolution literature, developed largely within the comparative politics field, advances an ‘elite accommodation’ strategy for resolving conflict that grants the most militant and sometimes violent ethnonational leaders the authority to speak for the body public during transformative constitutional moments. I propose that conflict resolution schemes that privilege ethnonational elite political figures and treat the interests of all actors in intrastate conflict as fundamentally derived from ethnonational interests do not produce a stable post-conflict period of peace and governance, they fail to secure human rights, equality guarantees and justice provisions for all communities in a post-conflict period, and they fail to capitalize on the local, participant knowledge and alternate visions of conflict resolution and peace that are developed in “subaltern” identity-based communities. In my view, when we consider the genesis and development of the feminist peace movements in Israel/Palestine and Northern Ireland, we can see how a politics based on solidarity and alliances, across ethnic, national, gender, class and sexuality divides, is informed by the endogenous conditions of conflict and also the exogenous development of transnational feminist theory and praxis. The negotiation of identity in women’s feminist peace communities has been complex and, at times, difficult. However, it has also led to the development of novel ideas related to peace, inclusion, human rights and justice that have been sidelined, to varying degrees, in the conflict resolution processes in both cases.
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