FALL 2022

Women and War: Feminist Approaches to War and Violence

Temple University (in person at Charles Library 401, and online)

November 11-12, 2022

* The entire event will be available live via Zoom. *

Keynote Speakers

Nancy Sherman

Professor of Philosophy, Georgetown University

Talk TBA

Laura Sjoberg

British Academy Global Professor of Politics and International Relations, Royal Holloway University of London

Kill the Women First? Gender and the Impossible Civilian”

Traditional narratives suggest that killing civilians intentionally in wars happens infrequently and that the perpetration of civilian targeting is limited to aberrant actors. Recently, scholars have shown that both state and non-state actors target civilians, even while explicitly deferring to the civilian immunity principle. I fill a gap in the accounts of how civilian targeting happens and shows that these actors are in large part targeting women rather than some gender-neutral understanding of civilians. I argue that gender is key to how war-fighting actors understand both themselves and their opponents and therefore plays a role in shaping strategic and tactical choices. Building on this argument, I suggest that gendered notions of the civilian are permissive, rather than restraining, in the logics of war legitimation.

The philosophical discourse around questions of war has tended to approach war from the perspective of states, political leaders, and soldiers. These perspectives are often treated as objective, universal, or neutral points of view. However, given the reality of gender inequality in the social, political, and legal spheres, these “objective” perspectives have tended to focus our attention on the experiences and concerns of men. What has been kept hidden from view are the unique ways in which war affects women. This conference seeks to challenge the dominant frameworks of war by bringing to the fore feminist and other alternative approaches (e.g., critical race, queer theoretic, decolonial) to questions of war.

Questions of interest may include:

  • Is it possible for war to promote gender equality, or to defend women’s rights?
  • What is the relationship, if any, between capitalism, the disvaluation of women’s labor, and war?
  • Can we justify ballooning military budgets, when societies are facing multiple crises of homelessness, violence against women, child hunger, and precarious labor?
  • What obligations do states have to care for women and children trapped in war zones?
  • What is the relationship between war, masculinity, and martial virtue?
  • How should the lingering trauma of losing husbands, fathers, and sons, feature in our calculations about whether war can satisfy the criterion of proportionality?
  • In what ways are women soldiers excluded from combat? Can these exclusions be justified?
  • Is war an environmentally sustainable activity? How should we think about violence against the natural world?
  • Can a feminist ethics of care effectively engage with or resist violence and aggression? How does feminism affect our understanding of non-violent resistance?

Interested participants are warmly invited to submit abstracts of approximately 500 words to Lee-Ann Chae at lchae@temple.edu by September 6, 2022. Notifications will be made via email by September 9.


This conference is generously sponsored by a Seminar Series Grant from the Global Studies Program at Temple University, and the Philosophy Department at Temple University.


There is no conference fee, but registration is required.