'Generous Amazons Came to the Breach': Besieged Women, Agency and Subjectivity during the French Wars of Religion

Title'Generous Amazons Came to the Breach': Besieged Women, Agency and Subjectivity during the French Wars of Religion
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsSandberg, Brian
JournalGender & History
Pagination654 - 688
Date Published12/2004

Gender studies of violence have forced scholars to rethink the association of femininity with ‘vulnerability’ and the objectivisation of women as mute victims of organised violence and oppression, incapable of agency. Recent debates about the role women and homosexuals should play in military systems in the United States and other countries have sparked a renewed interest in exploring historical contexts of the relationships between gender and organised violence. If violence is considered as a performative act, whole new dimensions of gendered aspects of the history of violence and warfare emerge. This article explores the roles played by Protestant and Catholic women in southern France during siege operations of the French Wars of Religion. These besieged women acted to support their coreligionists by participating in the conflicts as healers, suppliers and even combatants. Besieged women were considered ‘vulnerable’ in sieges, yet their involvement in siege operations challenged contemporary gender stereotypes, threatened social norms and opened new potential cultural possibilities for these women.The author examines how the discourses on violence, bodies, revolt and religion shaped the tough choices that confronted these women as they participated actively in civil violence. The besieged women in southern France are key to understanding the dynamics of gender and warfare and the ways in which women have actively participated in violence – especially in cases of civil violence where the status of the body politic was thrown into question. [author]

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