Gender, Social Networks, and Conflict
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War is an inherently social process, from the mobilization of new, armed organizations, to the relational aftershocks of violence affecting families and local communities. This essay synthesizes existing feminist research on dynamics of conflict and peacebuilding and brings a social network approach to understanding gendered patterns of intersectional inequality. It presents a framework for understanding how civil war affects social structures vis-à-vis personal support networks, and in turn how that can constrain or enable women’s and men’s social and economic opportunities. Through a descriptive analysis of communities in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, I argue that war’s social processes, and ongoing militarization in particular, can create structural constraints for people seeking to participate peacefully in civilian life, and incentivize maintaining armed group connections. Network research shines light on the social processes that reproduce gendered inequalities and cleavages after conflict. It also reveals opportunities for bridging divides and transforming wartime networks into peacetime support structures.