My research is situated at the intersection of security, global governance, and feminist postcolonial theory. In particular, I am interested in women’s security, especially as interpreted by and through the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations in West Africa. I examine the role of women’s community organizations to understand how they advocate for and support women in conflict and post-conflict situations, especially in response to UN Security Council's Women, Peace, and Security agenda.
My dissertation, Advocating for Themselves: Seeking Security Through Women’s Peacebuilding Organizations in Cote d’Ivoire, is a study of the UN Security Council’s Women, Peace, and Security agenda and how it is implemented in Côte dʼIvoire by local and national women’s security and peacebuilding organizations. I examine these organizations’ understandings of security and the ways they establish and advocate for their priorities while working with the United Nations, transnational NGOs, and the national government. Much of the research on this topic suggests that international efforts to implement this agenda clash with national and local priorities. But I reveal through three levels of analysis that the reality is more complex, that while multiple international and transnational discourses have sometimes-competing, sometimes-cooperating effects on the local implementation, Ivorian women’s understandings of security also shape how the agenda is implemented. To complete this research, I interviewed local NGO, government, and UN representatives and conducted participant observation over eleven months in Cote d’Ivoire, funded by a Fulbright Fellowship. I make three central arguments. The first is that two kinds of global actors—international and transnational—try to shape the Women, Peace, and Security agenda, but they do so in distinctive ways: through the state and bypassing it. The second is that this agenda in Côte dʼIvoire has narrowed to a focus on security sector reform at the national level, with the assistance of international actors, a move that limits the role of women while taking up their cause. Third, local women’s organizations perform a pragmatic skepticism, working with international, transnational, and national actors to achieve their own goals, reclaiming some of the essentializing discourses told about them.