Curriculum Vitae (CV)


Book project: My book project, Militant Women: Violence and Legitimacy in Civil War, asks why some rebel organizations successfully threaten the state, control territory, and generate civilian support while others fail. I argue that women’s participation is critical because it affects how civilians view an insurgency, making rebels appear more legitimate because they seem inclusive and well-integrated into local communities. Women’s participation also makes insurgents stronger and leads to more effective tactics and strategies, further generating civilian support. In the manuscript, I first theoretically engage how women’s involvement shapes state and non-state actor conceptualization of ‘participation’ in political violence; I then use qualitative and quantitative techniques to establish the effect of women’s participation on rebel successes, particularly focusing on contributions in non-combat roles. Next, I analyze rebel propaganda to show how organizations exploit essentialist gender beliefs to frame female participation as legitimizing evidence that they are not fringe extremists. Finally, I explore how international and domestic legal actors respond to or fail to hold women accountable for human rights violations during conflict.

This project is the product of extensive original data collection. I created an original, cross-national dataset of women’s participation in front-line, support, and leadership roles in 147 rebel groups formed between 1960-2016. In addition, I conducted archival research in Northern Ireland and collected political posters and other propaganda related to women’s participation or gender representations during the Troubles. From this and other archives, I collect over 2,200 posters from archives memorializing global civil wars (see MVDP below). I use them to demonstrate how violent groups capitalize on gender stereotypes in their propaganda to build legitimacy and support.

Militant Visuals Data Project: I am interested in civil conflict's visual politics. The Militant Visuals Data Project (MVDP) is an on-going effort to systematically collect and code visual militant propaganda and other images, primarily posters and social media visuals, and some similar materials like cards and smaller visuals. Data collection is in progress: the MVDP hosts visuals from cross-national militant groups operating since 1960. The project will also include case histories of militant visual operations and their co-production across organizations. This project is expected to produce a series of articles. Once published, the MVDP will be publicly available.

I am currently working on two article-length projects stemming from this larger data collection: one examines how rebels depict women militants as 'armed mothers' to legitimize political violence and gain support from observers (see abstract below); the other analyzes the strategic themes and messages of Irish Republican Army propaganda during the Troubles ("The Visual War: Violence and Legitimacy in Irish Republican Army Propaganda")

  • “Both Needed and Threatened:” Armed Mother Imagery in Militant Visuals (under review post-R+R)

    • Because women are assumed non-violent, their participation in militant groups can signal circumstantial exigency, humanize the organizations, and legitimize rebellion. At the same time, gender beliefs are deeply engrained, and even in the most permissive environments women’s involvement can generate resistance. Militants must reconcile women’s capacity to build legitimacy with their potential to destabilize it. This article explores how militants navigate these tensions through their political visuals. Specifically, it interrogates the use of ‘armed mother’ imagery across six conflicts, demonstrating that militants mobilize similar – or, in some cases, identical – images despite significant variation in time, ideology, audience, overall propaganda production, and women’s actual combat participation. By juxtaposing motherhood - a ‘natural’ role for women mythologized as national survival - with militancy, these images highlight the violent disruption and transformation of everyday life and, in response, authorize political violence. But they also stress the temporariness of women’s role expansion during war, reassuring viewers that post-conflict promises a return to ‘normal’ gender order. Across conflicts, militants use armed mother imagery to contextualize, justify, and humanize violent struggle, narrativizing women’s violence in service of group legitimacy even in cases where women rarely participate on the frontlines.

Legitimate Targets: Rebel Violence Against Sexual Minorities:  Jamie J. Hagen and I explore why some rebel organizations target gender and sexual minorities (GSM) during civil conflict. We conclude that rebel organizations target sexual minorities as a method of statecraft.We leverage feminist and queer IR literatures to suggest that regulating sexual behavior is an essential state function, one that governments perform as a method of defining sovereignty, designating citizens from non-citizens, and securitizing morality. We argue that rebel organizations can thus demonstrate political legitimacy by identifying moral boundaries and exerting authority to enforce them. We document widespread, global abuses and demonstrate that state persecution of gender and sexual minorities make these groups ‘legitimate targets’ for violence during conflict. Beyond our cross-national study, we conduct an in-depth analysis of violence against gender and sexual minorities in the Syrian Civil War. We highlight the gaps in international law and policy that mean these abuses go largely ignored, demonstrating that the international community fails to recognize these violations as ‘gender-based violence.’ 

Militarizing the ‘Double Bind:’ Perceptions of Women Veteran Candidates in the 2018 Election:   With Meredith Conroy I am working on an experimental project assessing perceptions of women veterans running for Congress. Can military service offset persistent stereotypes about female candidate competence and leadership potential? This project bridges the women in U.S. politics literature with security studies work on militarized political images and perceptions of women in politically violent organizations. A paper based on this project's first stage is currently under review:

  • Running on Their Records: Gender Cues and Women Veteran Candidates (under review)

    • Abstract: An unprecedented number of women veterans ran for Congress in 2018, campaigning explicitly on their military service and outperforming their male counterparts. Still, we know little about how women’s military backgrounds shape voter perception of candidates. Women veterans running for office occupy a unique space in American politics: they are subject to the same sexist perceptions of their qualifications and credibility as other female candidates, but they also naturally transgress gender stereotypes through their professional service. Does military service offset gender stereotypes about women in politics? In this study, we explore how women veterans navigate unique challenges within the context of the double bind in American elections. Employing content analysis of 169 campaign advertisements and a survey experiment, we analyze and assess the effectiveness of gendered strategies in women veterans’ campaign ads. We find that women veteran candidates use cues to manipulate gender and military stereotypes, that gender strategies in campaign advertising do shape respondent perceptions, but that persistent stereotypes about women limit the influence of military masculinity cues among potential Republican voters. Our results suggest that candidates can leverage gender and military experience together in service of overarching campaign narratives​