The selling power of women in uniform: from the maquisardes of the Algerian War to Kurdish peshmerga fighters

In this post, Dr. Natalya Vince considers the popular obsession with female fighters, both today and in the past, and examines the gulf that often exists between the image and the reality of women in uniform. The role of Kurds in Iraq and Syria in fighting Islamic State (IS, alternatively known as ISIS, ISIL or Da‘ech) is currently a major focus in the international media. Particular attention has been paid to women fighters within the Kurdish forces. Last week, multinational retailer H&M was forced to issue an apology when an item from their autumn/winter 2014-15 collection – an olive green jumpsuit, styled with military boots and a high-waisted belt – was accused of tastelessly channelling ‘peshmerga style’ by imitating the kinds of outfits worn by female Kurdish soldiers. The Swedish fashion giant insisted that the similarities were purely coincidental – incidentally, the same claim of unfortunate coincidence was made (perhaps somewhat more convincingly) this August by the British sex toys and lingerie specialist Ann Summers, when they launched a new underwear range called ISIS. Images from H&M and AFP, reproduced on Al Arabiya News. Whilst we might find the incongruity of ISIS erotic underwear mildly amusing, it is not surprising […]

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Review of ‘Plot for Peace’: the mystery of hindsight

In this post, Roel van der Velde, whose PhD research explores Franco-South African relations, focusing particularly on arms sales, reviews the 2013 documentary Plot for Peace. A lot has already been said and written about the 2013 documentary Plot for Peace. Like its main character, Jean-Yves Ollivier, it has been showered with awards, for its depiction of an unknown contribution to the end of the gruesome Angolan war and ultimately, racial segregation in South Africa. Ollivier deserves this eulogy for applying intimate knowledge of African politics to his vision of smooth transition for White South Africa away from Apartheid. Plot For Peace is the brainchild of Mandy Jacobson, documentary producer and chair of the African Oral History Archive, which unearthed the role of Ollivier. Employing experienced researchers and a gifted film crew from a mostly non-documentary fiction-based background, Jacobson’s Archive obtained support from the philantropic Ichikowitz Family Foundation. The Foundation was founded by South African drama-student turned defence entrepreneur Ivor Ichikowitz.[i] Plot For Peace offers a scurry through contemporary African history that will only whet the appetite of fans of historical reconstruction. Given its acclaim, some perspective on this (deserved) eulogy of Jean-Yves Ollivier is in order. The movie is […]

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