Mothers, Soldiers, and Nation in the ‘Neutral’ Defense

Annica Kronsell

in Gender, Sex, and the Postnational Defense

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199846061
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933099 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Gender and International Relations

Mothers, Soldiers, and Nation in the ‘Neutral’ Defense

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This chapter explores how the national defense was founded on gendered ideas around nation making processes and notions of citizenship. It is exemplified with Swedish military and defense practice with a focus on the connection between the defense and the nation through military conscription and voluntary defense organizations. The nation was gendered and men were the “neutral soldiers” acting as protectors of the nation, in the name of a specific militarism associated with neutrality—women were “the beautiful souls” to be protected, defined outside conscription, and military practice. Women’s political agency was limited and commonly associated with motherhood. Any other role that women pursued posed a challenge to the defense organization. The “woman-in-arms” identity was shown to be particularly problematic. Sweden pursued a neutral foreign policy yet the national defense was influenced by militarism. This “neutral” militarism was widely dispersed throughout society, trickled down through the state via conscription and voluntary defense organizations and was connected to everyday tasks.

Keywords: conscription; women’s agency; genered nation making; neutral militarism; voluntary defence organizations; motherhood

Chapter.  10268 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: International Relations

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