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Güneş Murat Tezcür. Forthcoming. “A Path out of Patriarchy? Political Agency and Social Identity of Women Fighters,” Perspectives on Politics.

Violent movements in different parts of the world have employed large numbers of women fighters. This article addresses the question of how and why so many women from diverse background join an ethnic insurgency. Informed by an intersectional approach, the article suggests that when gender and ethnic inequalities overlap, an ethnic insurgency promising gender emancipation would have strong appeal among women. At the same time, the intersection of class and gender among women of an ethnic minority shapes their distinctive patterns of mobilization. In particular, uneducated women with lower class backgrounds join the movement because it provides them with the most viable way out of patriarchal relations. The article employs a multi-method research design to study a paradigmatic case of women in arms, the Kurdish insurgency. It utilizes an original large dataset containing information about more than 9,000 militants, an extensive fieldwork entailing dozens of in-depth interviews, and an archival study of sources in primary languages. The findings reveal (1) the effects of unequal relationships based on ethnicity, gender, and class on violent political mobilization and (2) the ambivalent relationship between women’s political agency and empowerment.


Güneş Murat Tezcür, 2016. "Ordinary People, Extraordinary Risks: Participation in an Ethnic Rebellion," American Political Science Review  110(2): 247-64.

Why do ordinary people take extraordinary risks and join an ethnic armed rebellion? This article tests a series of established hypotheses about selfish and identity based motivations and a new hypothesis based on prospect theory. It then employs a unique multi-method research strategy combining one of the most comprehensive datasets on insurgent recruitment that contains biographical information about 8,266 Kurdish militants with extensive fieldwork involving in-depth interviews with relatives of the militants to test these hypotheses. The findings show the decision to rebel is as much political as economic and social. While security concerns and expectations of benefits affect in the decision to rebel, social commitments, identities radicalized by state repression, and collective threat perceptions among efficacious individuals generated by political mobilization, rather than preexisting ethnic cleavages, also lead to participation in an ethnic insurgency. The latter findings explain the durability of insurgencies with limited economic resources and their ability to attract educated fighters.