Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Margaret Hermann


conflict;conjugal orders;gender;Rebel Governance;social orders;Women's Wings

Subject Categories

International Relations | Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The proceeding dissertation is a collection of three articles exploring the phenomenon of women’s wings in rebel groups. The articles ask different questions and utilize diverse methodological tools. The three abstracts are below. Paper 1 exposes the patterns of women’s wings in rebel groups through a large-N analysis of 372 rebel groups existing between 1946 and 2015. Scholarship in rebel governance has begun to identify trends of how women organize and participate in rebel groups. Patterns of women’s participation in conflict vary widely in scope, purpose, and form between, within, and after conflict. This paper focuses on patterns of women’s wings in armed rebellion. I establish variation in women’s participation between women’s integrated participation throughout rebellion and participation organized through women’s wings. I ask: Why do rebel groups have women’s wings? I argue that having some form of women’s wing is a governance strategy that rebels interested in state building employ, as evidenced by territorial control and rebel provision of social services. Women’s wings are important spaces for women to develop a gendered political consciousness which has downstream effects on gender coordination in rebel governance. I employ a large-n quantitative approach using the Women’s Activities in Armed Rebellion (WAAR) dataset and added variables coded to measure the degree of institutionalization of gender orders, rebel control of territory, and social service provisions. I demonstrate that rebel groups that control territory or provide social services are more likely to have some form of women’s wing than other rebel groups. I conclude with a discussion of how different types of women’s wings and different gender orders assist in rebel strategy through two case vignettes. Paper 2 pivots to looking at the formation and strategic utility of women’s wings. The ways that rebel groups regulate women’s participation has warranted much attention in studies of rebel governance, yet few have explored rebel control in the regulation of the private lives of women. Attention to the household, particularly a feminist interrogation of marriage as an institution and as a lived experience, can begin to explain militarizing dynamics in rebellion. How can attention to the household explain control in insurgencies? In what ways do rebels control the conjugal orders, and to what ends? I introduce a new theoretical framework to explain the ways that rebels control conjugal orders, and what their intended consequences are of these sets of orders. Through the Variance in Conjugal Order (VCO) framework, I argue that rebels control conjugal orders to achieve internal cohesion, broader social reproduction of the narratives of rebellion, and biological reproduction of the rebel base through their positioning of women. Women’s social positions of wife, mother, woman-soldier, or masculinized-soldier demonstrate how gender operates relationally in rebel control in support of their state making aims. This article operationalizes marriage as a structure with social and political incentives. Since marriage is the primary way that the state (and rebels) can regulate the interactions between men and women, policies regarding marriage allow rebel groups to structure the conjugal orders. In doing so, rebels position women based on which identity they seek to invoke in order to produce what the rebellion needs. I trace the distinct ways rebels deploy conjugal orders through a variety of rebel movements focusing on commonalities in rebel strategy. Paper 3 positions women’s wings in the post-conflict period. A wealth of empirical data exists about the diverse ways that women participate in and sustain conflict in rebellion. Despite their participation, combatant women are often systematically excluded from the processes of redress in post-conflict periods. In this article I ask: What can attention to combat women’s wings unveil about women’s contribution to post-conflict processes? I argue that armed-women’s wings shape rebel’s governance priorities through the post-conflict period and facilitate the development of a gender political consciousness. This politicization helps ex-combatant women foster collective demands and secure roles in governance structures post-conflict. I derive this argument from the experiences of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NCSN-IM) women combatants including those involved in the all-women tactical wing, the Ladies Unit. I employ a process-tracing methodological approach where I follow the formation of the Ladies Unit and track its persistence through post-conflict processes. Through the analytic focus on women’s organizations – or women’s wings – I set a research agenda highlighting the diverse ways the state and rebel groups employ gender regulations in structuring post-conflict processes. Rebel governance literature has begun to shed light on combatant women’s exclusion from post-conflict spaces despite the broad set agreement that women’s participation at any stage of the peace process produces better, more durable outcomes. I conclude by encouraging future scholars to consider combatant women as having engaged in violence as opposed to being solely arbiters of peace.


Open Access