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Securing the Gender Order: Homosexuality and the British Armed Forces
Bulmer, Sarah Elizabeth
Date: 29 September 2011
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in Politics
This thesis explores why gender hierarchy remains resilient and entrenched in contemporary political life, despite efforts to challenge and transform it. I approach this question by focussing on the reproduction of gendered subjects, which I argue is integral to the reproduction of what I term ‘gender orders’. This reproduction is ...
This thesis explores why gender hierarchy remains resilient and entrenched in contemporary political life, despite efforts to challenge and transform it. I approach this question by focussing on the reproduction of gendered subjects, which I argue is integral to the reproduction of what I term ‘gender orders’. This reproduction is interrogated through an analysis of the reproduction of homosexuality in the contemporary British armed forces. A review of the literature in feminist International Relations (IR) shows feminists have engaged with poststructural thought to develop sophisticated analyses of the subject as an effect of power. I argue that there might be further resources in post structural thought which could be mobilised to expose the incompleteness and failure of all attempts to reproduce subjectivity which might open up new ways to intervene and subvert gender. Drawing on the thought of Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Judith Butler I develop a critical methodology for analysing the reproduction of gendered subjects in the contemporary British armed forces. I argue that the military gender order is traditionally sustained through the segregation of women and the exclusion of homosexuals. As such it is pervasively heteronormative. For this reason I argue that the potential ‘integration’ of homosexuals did pose a significant threat to the gender order. However I will argue the threat posed by the integration of LGBT personnel has been neutralised by a series of responses which ‘re-inscribe’ them into the gender order, although these responses are always unstable. I demonstrate that gender often fails to guarantee the intelligibility it promises, and attempts to order gender necessarily break down. However I will argue that this cannot be exploited instrumentally in order to subvert gender because the gender order is better characterised as being in perpetual crisis, and any attempt to reproduce gender differently will also be unstable and prone to crisis. Consequently critique then becomes a relentless call to question, undermine and deconstruct all attempts to secure political orders, with no guarantees. Ultimately the thesis demonstrates that gender orders are complex, mobile and resilient and argues that modes of feminist critique need to be similarly mobile and responsive to a constantly shifting discursive terrain.
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