GS X SIR Speaker Series: Lorraine Bayard de Volo

Engendering War: Strategies and Tactics in the Cuban and Nicaraguan Revolutions

This event will have both in-person and virtual options for attendees. Please register here in advance even if you plan on attending in person.

Guerrillas and states alike deploy gendered tactics in war, yet these are often later obscured in the official War Stories that focus on battlefield heroics. Similarly, the scholarly literature gravitates towards bullets, bombs, and maneuvers while ignoring war’s political and discursive components. In this talk, I explore revolutionary struggles for “hearts and minds,” in which gender differences are magnified, minimized, or otherwise reshaped to best address the perceived needs of militarization. In Cuba and Nicaragua, rebels and the revolutionary states used gender tactics—drawing on both femininity and masculinity—to demoralize enemy soldiers, recruit new combatants, mobilize support among the nation at large, and sway the foreign policy of other nations. Examining gender tactics in war enhances our understanding of how wars are waged and won and how this, in turn, constrains postwar efforts at gender equality.

Lorraine Bayard de Volo is a political scientist in the Department of Women and Gender Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her areas of interest include gender, sexuality, and race as they relate to militarization, war, and revolution in Latin America. She is the author of Women and the Cuban Insurrection: How Gender Shaped Castro’s Victory and Mothers of Heroes and Martyrs: Gender Identity Politics in Nicaragua, 1979-1999. She takes a postcolonial, feminist approach to Cold War Cuba and is developing a book that goes beyond the superpower narratives through a Cuba-centric analysis of the Cuban Missile Crisis.