Gendered repertoires of contention: women’s resistance, authoritarian state formation, and land grabbing in Cambodia

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This article was named the winner of the 2020 Enloe Award. The committee commented: This article embodies the spirit of the Enloe Award in providing a feminist understanding of the everyday experiences and strategies of poor women’s social movements against the authoritarian regime in Cambodia. It traces the co-constitution of gendered formations of the state and women’s collective action through an account of four distinct types of “gendered repertoires of contention” used by the women to protest Cambodia’s land grab. The critical-reflexive understanding of social movements offered here illuminates strategies of feminist resistance to authoritarian state power in Cambodia and beyond. The article stood out for its clarity and evidence-based narrative, and we are delighted that it has won the award. ABSTRACT As strongmen and autocrats become increasingly visible in global politics, what gendered resistances arise and how do these contend with repressive regimes? Since 2017, following a severe purge of his critics, Cambodia’s longstanding Prime Minister Hun Sen has put the country under a near total form of authoritarian rule. His regime has been bolstered by a distinct mode of accumulation involving large-scale land transfers to foreign and domestic allies, which have systematically evicted and dispossessed a large number of the country’s smallholder farmers and the urban poor of their homes and agricultural lands. Amid this surge of “land grabbing,” Cambodian women from across the country have led and sustained public protests to reclaim their lands. In this article, I study the routines and performances of poor women’s collective action against the state and outline four distinct types of “repertoires of contention” used by women in their protests: strategic positioning, anti-politics, self-sacrifice, and solidarity. I argue that these repertoires are embedded in and enact the authoritarian state that they contest and advance the notion of the “gendered authoritarian state” that is made visible in contentious interactions between the state and its dispossessed citizens.




Joshi, S. (2022). Gendered repertoires of contention: women’s resistance, authoritarian state formation, and land grabbing in Cambodia. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 24(2), 198–220.

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