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An urgent corrective to the erasure of the female fighter from narratives on gender and power, demanding that we see all women as political actors.
"Violence, for me, and for the women I chronicle in this book, is simply a political reality."
Though the female fighter is often seen as an anomaly, women make up nearly 30% of militant movements worldwide. Historically, these women--viewed as victims, weak-willed wives, and prey to Stockholm Syndrome--have been deeply misunderstood. Radicalizing Her holds the female fighter up in all her complexity as a kind of mirror to contemporary conversations on gender, violence, and power. The narratives at the heart of the book are centered in the Global South, and extend to a criticism of the West's response to the female fighter, revealing the arrayed forces that have driven women into battle and the personal and political elements of these decisions.
Gowrinathan, whose own family history is intertwined with resistance, spent nearly twenty years in conversation with female fighters in Sri Lanka, Eritrea, Pakistan, and Colombia. The intensity of these interactions consistently unsettled her assumptions about violence, re-positioning how these women were positioned in relation to power. Gowrinathan posits that the erasure of the female fighter from narratives on gender and power is not only dangerous but also, anti-feminist.
She argues for a deeper, more nuanced understanding of women who choose violence noting in particular the tendency of contemporary political discourse to parse the world into for--and against--camps: an understanding of motivations to fight is read as condoning violence, and oppressive agendas are given the upper hand by the moral imperative to condemn it.
Coming at a political moment that demands an urgent re-imagining of the possibilities for women to resist, Radicalizing Her reclaims women's roles in political struggles on the battlefield and in the streets.
Nimmi Gowrinathan's writing on the female fighter has been featured in publications as varied as Vice, Harper's Magazine, Foreign Policy, Freeman's Journal, Guernica Magazine, and The New York Times, among others. She is the Publisher of Adi Magazine, a literary magazine aiming to rehumanize policy, and creator of the Female Fighters Series at Guernica Magazine. She is Professor and the Director of the Politics of Sexual Violence Initiative at the City College of New York. Follow her work at deviarchy.com and on Twitter (nimmideviarchy).
Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City and grew up in South Korea, South Africa, and India. She is the author of the award-winning novels Faces in the Crowd (2014) and The Story of My Teeth (2015) and the essay collections Sidewalks (2014) and Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions (2017)—all published by Coffee House Press. Tell Me How It Ends was described by the Texas Observer as “the first must-read book of the Trump era” and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. Her most recent novel, Lost Children Archive (Knopf), was a winner of the 2020 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and the 2020 Folio Prize., and shortlisted for the Simpson Literary Prize. Luiselli is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. Her work has been translated to over 20 languages.