The Privatisation of Peace: Countering and Preventing Violent Extremism, Gendered Security Strategies and their Effects on Women

Description of PhD project

Over the last decade, the “soft” approaches of preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) have emerged to supplement the “hard” security approaches of counterterrorism (CT). P/CVE approaches, which work to address the structural drivers of violence through collaboration between the governance, development, and peacebuilding sectors, have identified women and gender as critical elements for its success. Indeed, within the last five years there has been a sharp increase in policy and programming emphasizing the importance of “women’s empowerment” and “gender equality” in P/CVE activities. While academic research has examined the impact of CT on women, women’s rights, and women’s civil society organizations, no such studies exist for P/CVE. Moreover, there is a significant gap in the literature regarding the implications of gendered strategies used by (private) security actors in a given context, particularly in connection to the impact they have on indiscriminate violence by non- state actors (often defined as so-called “push factors” by classical P/CVE literature). The intended PhD project will therefore look at security actors, such as military, police or private security actors, and their security strategies used within the narrative of P/CVE.

The research employs a postcolonial feminist perspective, rejecting universalisms around gendered experiences of both men and women and acknowledging that certain approaches to mainstreaming gender can lead to detrimental outcomes in terms of gender equality. The researcher commits to the use of a unique combination of feminist ethnographic and discursive methods in a top-down and bottom-up approach to understanding gendered security strategies. Such a mixed-methods approach results in varied sources of qualitative data on these strategies both at the level of discursive conceptualisation (i.e. policy, programming, political discourse) and at the level of practical implementation (i.e. what these strategies actually look like on the ground).

This dissertation is part of a larger SNF PRIMA grant-funded project led by Dr. Elizabeth Mesok, titled “Gendered Security Strategies: How Women Matter in the Policy and Practice of Countering Violent Extremism.” 

Supervisor: Dr. Elizabeth Mesok
Co-Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Laurent Goetschel

Short Bio

Darja Schildknecht is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at the Graduate School for Social Sciences at the University of Basel and part of the Gender, War and Security Research Group. In 2014, she graduated from the London School of Economics (LSE) with a Master’s degree in Development Studies and subsequently worked in various fields, including research, peacekeeping and politics. Darja’s research interests include human security, gender and postcolonial feminism, as well as the privatisation of violence.



Darja Schildknecht 
Zentrum Gender Studies 
Rheinsprung 21, Office U4.001
4051 Basel