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Masculinity, Ideology and Change in the People’s War in Nepal - 2 June 2021

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Speaker: Heidi Riley, Adjunct Research Fellow, School of Politics and International Relations, University College Dublin and interim Survey Director, XCEPT Project, Kings College London 

Discussant: Pauline Zerla, PhD Candidate, Department of War Studies

Chair: Beth Heron, Research Manager, King's College London


This seminar is focused on Heidi’s forthcoming book, Masculinity, Ideology and Change in the People’s War in Nepal, due to be published later in the summer.


Masculinity associated with armed groups tends to be built on assumptions of violence and insecurity. This book, however, examines other ways in which the experience of participation in an armed group may impact upon notions of masculinity held by low-level male combatants, both during conflict and in the aftermath. Using the case of Nepal, the research focuses on how men of the People’s Liberation Army in Nepal experienced and engaged with an ideology espoused by the leadership, that advocated for a more gender equal ideology than existed in traditional Nepali society. Focusing on masculinity change across four different timeframes: pre-conflict, conflict time, the DDR period and post-conflict, the analysis pays close attention to changes in attitudes towards gender specific roles and conduct, and perceptions of gender hierarchies.

The analysis is taken from in-depth qualitative fieldwork using narrative analysis from interviews with former members of the PLA in Nepal. In examining changes in masculinity, it focuses on shifts in attitudes towards gender specific roles and conduct, notions of acceptable behaviour within male/female interaction, and changes in perceptions of gender hierarchies. It also takes an original analytical approach that is grounded in identity theory and is located both in feminist scholarship on masculinity and the literature on peace and conflict. Whilst providing fresh insights into these literatures it also exposes how masculinity change is not straightforward but influenced by both past and present, which leads to contradiction and continuity in a post-conflict context.



Heidi Riley is an Adjunct Research Fellow in the School of Politics and International Relations, University College Dublin and has also been interim Survey Director for the XCEPT project at Kings College London since February.

Heidi’s main research area is in gender and armed conflict, with a particular focus on the interaction between ideology and masculinity within non-state armed groups. She has worked extensively on gender and conflict in South Asia, with a particular focus on Nepal. As a secondary research area she also works on issues of negotiated settlement, with a focus on women’s participation in international peace mediation. She has written broadly on issues related to UNSCR 1325 on Women Peace and Security, masculinity and peacebuilding.


Heidi holds a PhD from University College Dublin, an MPhil in International Peace Studies from Trinity College Dublin, and an MA Honours in International Relations from the University of Edinburgh. She is the winner of the Conflict Research Society, Cedric Smith Prize (2017) and the International Studies Association, Feminist Theory and Gender Studies Graduate paper award (2018). Her recent project that examines women in peace mediation from across the island of Ireland was awarded a UCD impact award.


Beyond academia Heidi previously worked for the Conflict Resolution Unit at the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, where she was part of the team implementing the Irish National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325, as well as a number of Human Rights NGOs.

Heidi Riley
Heidi RIley

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Event details

2 June 2021

Online event