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Jin, Xianan (2023) The Political Economy of Women’s Political Participation in Rwanda: Gender, Class, and State-building. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00039192

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Abstract

This thesis highlights the significance of political economy in women’s political participation in post-genocide Rwanda. It builds on gender studies, feminist International Relations and political economy, African feminism, development, and politics, and contributes a political economy analytical framework to studies of women’s political participation in post-conflict societies. This research stems from a motivation to investigate the global attention to Rwanda as a ‘success’ story for women’s political empowerment and how the ‘success’ disguises other inequalities and exclusions in the political arena. Derived from this curiosity, the thesis unpacks the centrality of gender and class in the state-building process in post-conflict Rwanda. To do this, the thesis deploys political economy, materialised in land possession, informal labour and reproductive labour, as the theoretical framework to reveal the ways in which class struggles dictate gendered realities. Influenced by transnational and African feminist epistemologies, I undertook ten-month ethnographic fieldwork in Kigali, including interviews, focus groups and participant observation with Rwandan women from different class backgrounds. The interlocutors are female urban informal workers, village imidugudu leaders, NGO directors and national political elites, all of whom are essential knowledge producers in the thesis. Through disentangling the complexity of women’s engagement with post-genocide politics, I argue that the institutional gender reform of women’s political inclusion is limited to urban women with material privilege. This means, women from the landed elite echelon ascend to national political positions; those from the urban middle-class take up the unpaid grassroots political labour, whereas lower-class women are pushed to the periphery of politics. The thesis reveals that the neoliberal Rwandan state, influenced by the international development regime, has ignored the material dimension of women’s struggles. This ignorance of class essentialises womanhood in an elite and heterosexual norm and helps to contribute to the state developmental project by exploiting the urban poor population.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Gina Heathcote and Kate Grady
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00039192
Date Deposited: 28 Mar 2023 16:04
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/39192
Funders: Other

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