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Susie Jacobs, Ruth Jacobsen and Jennifer Marchbank (eds), 'States of Conflict: Gender, Violence and Resistance'

Zed Books 2000, 246 pp. ISBN 1 85649 656 2

In a volume that ranges the whole spectrum of violence against women – from the state to the domestic – States of Conflict presents a snapshot of recent feminist research on gender and violence.

But though the global view presented and the varied perspectives they employed was refreshing, my overall feeling was that the diverse approach ultimately combined to give the general reader little more than an introduction to, rather than an overall analysis of, women's responses to and experience of violence. The quality of the chapters varies too: with 12 contributors, nine of them professional academics, the broader the subject area, the less interesting the contribution.

In “Gender, Community and Nation: The Myth of Innocence”, Prita Mukta looks first at women's oral tradition, including song, to explore women's participation in aggressive or violent right wing movements. Again, addressing women as complicit with, or perpetrators of, violence, Ruth Jacobsen looks at different roles inhabited by women in Northern Ireland, disputing the maternalist construction of woman as peace- maker.

Violence against women within national liberation movements is the focus of Tehobo Maitse's chapter, which explores Fanon's assertion that “the colonised man will first deposit his aggressiveness against his own”. She argues that nationalism and the struggle for national liberation in South Africa constructed a false sense of equality for women and concludes that the culture of self-determination is not necessarily inclusive of women's self-determination.

States of Conflict makes an interesting contribution to the literature on gender and violence, emphasising the myriad forms that violence and resistance can take. But perhaps too wide for both the general reader and those with more specific interests.

Topics: War and peace | Women