A different Story of War: women writers countering stereotypes and writing agency intro the story of conflict
Lieshout, V.H. van
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Within Conflict Studies, wars are discussed and analysed from a perspective that gives insights into the dynamics and tactics of conflicts. This thesis argues that the danger of focusing on these aspects of conflict is that the multiplicity of stories in conflict situations can be overlooked. The conflict is reduced to a single story that sometimes reduces the protagonists of conflict to stereotypes. Furthermore, the agency of people living through conflict situations is sometimes denied. Those that are denied agency, for example women in conflict situations, are often seen as victims in need of protection. Denial of agency means denying human dignity and the assumption of victimhood might lead to false justifications of (violent) intervention to protect the assumed helpless. This thesis argues that to avoid falling prey to a discourse of stereotypes and denial of agency, the stories of people living through conflict situations need to get a place within the dominant story of conflict in the field of Conflict Studies. In this thesis, it is argued that a literary analysis informed by postcolonial and gender theory can fill this gap by answering the question: ‘How do Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Assia Djebar’s Children of the New World counter gendered stereotypes and show different kinds of agency within a conflict situation?’ The analysis of these novels shows how the authors have countered gendered stereotypes in the story of conflict, such as ‘the violent and hypersexual black or native man’ and ‘the helpless woman that needs to be saved’. Furthermore, it shows how female characters show different kinds of agency, in the form of resistance and as the ability to endure and persist in a painful situation. Thereby, this thesis argues that postcolonial literary works can offer an important contribution to Conflict Studies by imagining new perspectives on conflict.