Making Death Visible: Chechen Female Suicide Bombers in an Era of Globalization

TitleMaking Death Visible: Chechen Female Suicide Bombers in an Era of Globalization
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsBanner, Francine
Academic DepartmentJustice Studies
Number of Pages400
UniversityArizona State University

Between 2000 and 2004 more than forty women from the Chechen Republic died either blowing themselves up or attempting to blow themselves up in acts of violence against the Russian state. From 2002 to 2004, women participated in every terrorist attack launched by Chechens. While Chechen men have engaged in suicide missions, it is only Chechen women who have donned the ominous 'suicide belt.' These women—labeled Black Widows in the Western press—seemingly appeared from nowhere; a band of female mercenaries emerging from a highly patriarchal culture in order to storm the West. This dissertation investigates the historical, social and political circumstances that fostered Chechen women's engagement in suicide bombing from 2000 to 2004. Although approximately fifteen percent of suicide bombers worldwide have been female, academic research by and large focuses on male actors. This project attempts to fill these gaps in academic scholarship by interrogating the ways in which historical relationships between individual women's bodies and the collective Chechen body may be related to women's engagement in political violence. Rather than following a 'top down' approach that adheres to one particular method or discipline, this project studies Chechen women's engagement in political violence from a trans-disciplinary perspective. Ultimately, the dissertation argues that suicide bombings by Chechen women were a manifestation of longstanding linkages between female bodies and the development of the nation state.

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