Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

Global Governance, Therapeutic Intervention, and War-Affected Girls

Academic journal article Alternatives: Global, Local, Political

Global Governance, Therapeutic Intervention, and War-Affected Girls

Article excerpt

The victimization of girls in armed conflict has garnered increased attention, yet recent scholarship shows that postconflict measures fail to meet girls' unique needs. This article examines gendered discourses employed in programming designed to assist girls following Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war, drawing on fieldwork conducted as part of a continuing program of study on peacebuilding in Sierra Leone. Specifically, the article presents a case study examining discourse relating to war-affected girls in one Freetown-based NGO, Connecting for Peace, which delivered programming to boys and girls affected by the war. KEYWORDS: postconflict, transnational governance, therapeutic intervention, war-affected girls, Sierra Leone

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In recent years the victimization of girls in armed conflict has garnered increased attention, (1) yet recent scholarship on war-affected girls shows that postconflict measures fail to meet girls' unique needs. (2) This article examines gendered discourses employed in programming designed to assist girls following Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war, drawing on components of fieldwork conducted in June 2005 and in March-April 2007 as part of a continuing program of study on peacebuilding in Sierra Leone. Specifically, this article presents a case study examining discourse relating to war-affected girls in one Freetown-based nongovernmental organization (NGO), Connecting for Peace (CFP), (3) which delivered programming to boys and girls affected by the war. The value in focusing on one NGO lies in a capacity to access the richness of discourse relating to war-affected girls. However, this article also positions CFP within a broader NGO context.

CFP's discourse on girls suggests that the organization is an institutional site of what Ferguson and Gupta (4) term "transnational governmentality." Rather than conceptualizing power as domination and coercion, governmentality refers to power that is "characterised by an increasing reliance on pastoral care and techniques of normalisation and consensus." (5) Power "works through systems of knowledge and discursive practices to provide the meanings, norms, values and identities that not only constrain actors, but also constitute them." (6) Thus not only is a population governed, but corresponding "self-regulation, techniques for the disciplining and care of the self," (7) imply a responsibilization of the subject (8) where responsibilization refers to the process of "shifting the responsibility for social risks such as illness, unemployment, poverty, and so on, and for life in society into the domain for which the individual is responsible and transforming it into a problem of "self-care." (9) The transnationatization or internationalization of governmentality refers to the "modes of government that are being set up on a global scale," (10) and is also termed "global liberal governance" or simply "global governance" among International Relations scholars of development and aid.

This article argues through an analysis of CFP's discourse that CFP's programming for war-affected girls is centrally focused on reforming girls' character, and thus responsibilizes girls through what I term "transformative strategies," such as sensitization, empowerment, "conscientising" (sic), and shaming. According to CFP's formulation, girls' laziness, dependence, and vanity led to their victimization both during and after the war; thus, their characters must be reformed to avert further victimization. At the same time, rescuing and reforming girls becomes a metonym for "civilization"; that is, the (ultra-)victimized girl-child has emerged as a chief signifier of the pathology of the global South and a justification for intervention, as in the regulatory work of NGOs. Inversely, the rescued girl-child becomes a symbol of successful development toward membership in the global moral community and an indicator of progress. While CFP provides a rich discursive case study, CFP's discourse must be situated within broader therapeutic practices employed by other NGOs as part and parcel of what Vanessa Pupavac terms "therapeutic governance. …

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