Agency and structure as determinants of female suicide terrorism a comparative study of three conflict regions
Dearing, Matthew P.
Johnson, Thomas H.
Hafez, Mohammed M.
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This thesis addresses the question, why do some insurgent groups use female suicide bombers while others avoid this tactic? Afghanistan is an example of a conflict zone where the propensity for female suicide terrorism is lower than other conflict regions, such as Iraq and Sri Lanka. Strategic calculations and materialist gains play a unique role in influencing organizational behavior, but deeper structural considerations, such as norms, institutional barriers, and the dynamics of conflict also influence the agency of actors. Realist approaches provide limited explanatory power in addressing the variation in the use of female suicide terrorism; constructivism provides a better model toward addressing individual, organizational and societal acceptance of this tactic, particularly as it relates to women. The case of the Taliban insurgency and its limited use of female suicide bombers suggest that factors other than materialist imperatives are at play. The comparative study of female suicide bombings has immediate policy and counterterrorism implications, but it can also shed light on the debate between materialist and constructivist approaches in international relations theory and in the formulation of military doctrine.
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