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Militarised masculinity and the rise of a new local political elite in post conflict Aceh

Abdulah, Sait (2018) Militarised masculinity and the rise of a new local political elite in post conflict Aceh. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis offers a feminist political economy analysis of the rise of a new local political elite in post-conflict Aceh. The scholarly literature on this topic has highlighted the roles of patrimonial political economy and democratisation processes in the GAM (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, Free Aceh Movement) ex-commanders’ transition into a civilian political elite. However, this literature does not adequately explain gendered processes involved in how this elite has ideologically legitimated its hold on power, to win supporters and marginalise rivals through the reconfiguration of a militarised, hegemonic masculinity. The argument of the present thesis draws on interviews with former GAM commanders and rank and file soldiers, other civilian leaders, government officials, NGOs and women activists involved in post-conflict reintegration programs.

The thesis argues that certain images and practices of a militarised, hegemonic masculinity have allowed the ex-commanders to position themselves as a dominant group over other GAM groups in the context of new local political contestations. To assert their authority and leadership, the ex-commanders have acted to retain their honoured status via two gendered ideological constructions. The first is the creation of an ideal ‘warrior hero’, based on the gendered dichotomies of ‘combatant’ versus ‘civilian’, ‘warrior’ versus ‘traitor’, and ‘true soldiers’ and ‘supporting soldiers’. This has promoted a shared militarised identity among ex-commanders and their former foot soldiers within the KPA (Komite Peralihan Aceh, Aceh Transition Commission) to garner electoral support and neutralise civilian elite rivals. Second has been the construction of the ‘father-figure’ status of ex-commanders as economic providers for their former troops, which profoundly resonates with breadwinner expectations of the male foot soldiers. Women soldiers’ participation in the war was determined by the gendered assumptions of their sex difference. Consequently, their post-conflict retained military status is lower and their material needs are considered to be fewer than those of their former male comrades.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School Of Business and Governance
Supervisor(s): Hutchison, Jane
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