Monday, January 5, 2009: 9:10 AM
Sutton South (Hilton New York)
From 2000-2004, Chechen militants engaged in a series of suicide bombings in the Russian Federation during which more than one thousand people were killed. These events were notable because more than forty percent of them were carried out by women. The involvement of Chechen women in this type of political violence garnered them the nickname “black widows” in the Western media. This presentation explores some of the reasons behind the decision to bestow the name black widows on Chechen female militants and challenges the commonly-held assumption that Chechen women elect to engage in political violence primarily out of a desire for vengeance for the death of close male relatives. Further, I will explore some of the potential connections between Chechen women’s experiences of and in longstanding conflict and their decisions to engage in acts of suicide terrorism. Elshtain (1987) notes that both “the right to kill” in war and “the right to narrate” war are types of authorship that often are denied to women. This particularly has been true of accounts of political violence, where scholars typically focus on suicide terrorism as a calculated response to occupation undertaken by young, disenfranchised men. This paper attempts to tell a story about suicide bombing that differs from existing narratives by being situated in local geographic context, focusing specifically on female actors, and taking into account the interrelationship between the lived experiences of women in conflict and the engagement of female bodies in political violence.