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Bananas, Beaches and Bases

By Andrew Lovett-Barron
Published in Reading
February 09, 2021
1 min read

Asking how something has been made implies that it has been made by someone with a certain kind of power.

In Bananas, Beaches and Bases, Cynthia Enloe provides a toolkit for seeing the systems that underpin international relations with greater accuracy through a feminist curiosity. In her preface to the second edition of the book, Enloe writes:

Here is what I’ve learned from taking these women seriously: if we pay sustained attention to each and all of these unheadlined women, we will become smarter about this world, smarter than a lot of mainstream “experts.”

Enloe’s consideration of the role of women in international affairs is one that is both personal and systemic. Individual women and individual cases make up part of the account — from British political society suggesting that Margaret Thatcher was the “toughest man in the room”, to interviews with women who had participated in anti-nuclear weapons protests in Greenham. She also takes more sweeping considerations, such as exploring the role of military wives in neo-colonial activities, as well the prominent role that gender plays in identity construction in nationalist movements (an unfortunately sticky and topical problem across North America and Europe).

I think of this book as one of the principal texts in contemporary International Relations theory, and as vital a tool for seeing systems as other books like Seeing Like a State. It’s very readable, it’s broadly relevant to one’s own experiences (if you’ve ever taken a vacation, eaten something that was imported, or wondered why Angela Merkel is the only woman in the room), and your understanding of the world will be less true without it.

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A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder
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Andrew Lovett-Barron

Software Designer and Researcher

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