9 Feb talk – Feminism, the politics of representation, and the ‘rhetoric of rescue’ of Afghan Women

Synne Laastad Dyvik will talk about Feminism, the politics of representation, and the ‘rhetoric of rescue’ of Afghan Women.

Join us at 1pm in SB317.


The invasion and counter-insurgency campaigns led by US and NATO Afghanistan, was preceded and followed by a particular vision of who Afghan women were and who they could become, post-invasion and through appropriate reconstruction policies. Afghan women were hailed as being one of the main reasons for the invasion, through the use of a ‘rhetoric of rescue’ and liberation. This act of representation relies on an image of the Afghan women as victimized, lacking in agency and in need of liberation by western forces. In this representation, feminist rhetoric and policies have been utilized as a means to justify and explain the invasion, and the current counter-insurgency and reconstruction efforts. The question is, what kind of feminism is here being (mis)-used and how has this utilization become possible?

This paper argues that this particular act of representation, through the ‘rhetoric of rescue’ is not altogether new; it is embedded into large parts of the history of feminism. Using examples from the UK, US and Norway, this paper will provide a historical explanation to how the politics of representation and the ‘rhetoric of rescue’ has been, and continues to be a challenge for feminism. This will be done through considering critiques from black feminism and postcolonial feminism and through analyzing academic and public debates within the US, UK and Norway. In all these cases and conversations, one of the primary challenges for a feminist perspective has been coming to terms with difference, and questions of how ‘generous’ a feminist agenda can be in terms of incorporating alternative feminist interpretations. Following this, the paper will aim at raising the question whether the politics of representation and the ‘rhetoric of rescue’ which is so explicit in the case of Afghanistan, underlies all of feminism and in turn, whether feminism can overcome its historical instinct to save.


This paper is part of a thesis, provisionally titled: ‘Women and the question of liberation in military operations, counter-insurgency and reconstruction’.

About the author

Synne Laastad Dyvik is a 2nd year DPhil, from the Department of International Relations. Her interests are: feminisms, postcolonial theory, critical theory, international political theory and masculinities.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: