Editors' Introduction.

AuthorKim, Suzy

WORLD MILITARY SPENDING ROSE TO $1,822 BILLION IN 2018, WITH the United States accounting for 36 percent of that staggering total (Tian et al. 2019). The escalating nuclear arms race is also alarming. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved up the hands of the Doomsday Clock to two minutes before midnight--worse than at the height of the Cold War. An unprecedented 68.5 million people (53 percent of them children) are now displaced by war and violence (internally and externally) (UNHCR 2018). Moreover, the global system is enmeshed with militarized ideas of masculinity, even when women are heads of state, elected officials, military leaders, and CEOs of four out of the five biggest military contractors in the United States (Spade & Lazare 2019)--and sexual violence continues unabated in multiple forms.

The United States has roughly 1,000 overseas bases, and despite inter-Korean and US-North Korean summits in 2018, the military standoff between the United States and North Korea continues, as do trade wars between the United States and China, the fractured relationship between the United States and Russia, and increasing tensions between the United States and Iran. Trump's domestic policy failures seem to be pushing him to greater recklessness in foreign and military policy. Ironically, those who are most likely to join the so-called voluntary US military are low-income white people and people of color, as well as undocumented migrants and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, despite recent presidential efforts to deport them upon completion of their service.

Meanwhile, contemporary activism against such priorities and threats has emerged in many contexts and is often initiated by women. This special issue revisits the theme of women and peacemaking by re-engaging some long-standing yet unsettled debates about what is meant by women as peacemakers. We situate this discussion at the intersections of feminisms, structural inequalities, environmental justice, and the need to generate sustainable communities--issues that have been seldom framed within a discourse of peace.

We bring together transnational feminist, critical race, and decolonial theories and praxes. Contributors draw on significant personal and professional experience and expertise in addressing these questions. We have worked in educational settings and in both grassroots and grasstops campaigns to influence national policy. Some of us have accompanied women engaged in armed struggle and transitional justice, working to change United Nations (UN) discourse, policy, and international human rights standards. This range of experience generates overlapping as well as divergent perspectives among contributors, rooted in different theoretical, disciplinary, and political positions. However, as we explore in the epilogue, there are also many synergies across the essays that lead to convergence around sustaining the commons that in turn sustains humankind. This concept and practice has a long history, which takes on renewed significance in this neoliberal era of heightened privatization, individualism, violence, and displacement.


This special issue grows out of a roundtable entitled "Conversations about Women and Peace Making: Visions, Actions, Challenges" that brought together scholars, educators, and activists on the occasion of International Women's Day on March 8,2017, at Rutgers University. In turn, this gathering grew out of the editors' involvement in Women Cross DMZ, when 30 women from 15 nations crossed the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) from North to South Korea on May 24, 2015, International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament (see www.womencrossdmz.org/). The goal of that initiative was to draw international attention to the need for a peace agreement to finally end the Korean War on the 70th anniversary of Korea's division.

The Rutgers roundtable sought to engage in critical dialogue about women's past contributions and future potential in making peace--including clarifying how women involved in such efforts understand themselves and peacemaking in the twenty-first century. Participants explored several previous efforts by women to reduce conflict and militarism while pressing for a just and transformative peace in various national settings. We engaged with feminist, intersectional, and decolonial scholarship, as well as theoretical frameworks focused on postconflict transitional justice, environmental justice, and social change. Speakers addressed strengths and limitations of the sometimes overly reductionist and essentializing discourse of women as peacemakers while also critically interrogating this conceptualization (hence the title of this special issue, Women and Peace Making, to underscore how both women and peace are always in the making).

Framing the Issue


Militarism involves a broad system of economic, political, and cultural institutions, investments, and practices that take their meaning and value from war. The so-called realist paradigm in international relations that dominates political, military, and academic thinking about national security assumes a hostile international environment in which war is always a possibility. Militarism's central distortion is that organized violence is essential in providing security. On the contrary, feminist peace activists, as well as environmentalists and Indigenous people working for sovereignty and self-determination, have shown that militarism creates severe insecurities for subjugated peoples, for many within dominant nations...

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