A significant milestone in WISCOMP’s effort to ‘engender’ security is the South Asian collaborative research project titled Transcending Conflict: Gender and Non-Traditional Security. Initiated in 2002, this research project was the first systematic attempt to foreground, through case studies from the South Asian region, the need to develop methodologies that situate gender concerns squarely within the security discourse. It facilitated cross-border research, published as monographs, by scholars from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and India on areas of conflict within the country of their residence.
Non-traditional formulations of and approaches to security have formed a central part of WISCOMP’s research agenda. Seeking to place gender concerns squarely within the parameters of the evolving discourse on security, WISCOMP conducts and facilitates research on a range of themes to engage with the expanding contours of the security debate.
This project seeks to:
Using creative methods such as multi-disciplinary dialogue and collaborative research, the project maps the intersections between traditional and non-traditional security concerns. Such a focus is missing from the security studies agenda in South Asia where traditional and non-traditional security concerns are boxed into separate compartments in spite of the opportunities that exist to synergize the two. WISCOMP has tried to bring to a common platform the richness and diversity of views on this subject in the hope that through multi-disciplinary dialogues and research, a more holistic vocabulary for security will emerge—one that interrogates the apparent contradictions between the so-called traditional and non-traditional and seeks instead to map the intersections between the two.
This project has also taken cognizance of the gendered dimensions of transnational flows, terrorism, small arms, and human trafficking—exploring how these have entered the security lexicon as variables that straddle both the domains of what is regarded as traditional and non-traditional security concerns. The ways in which terrorism has reconfigured traditional notions of conflict and war is particularly relevant. In this context, WISCOMP has focused on the intersection of gender and terrorism in South Asia. The ‘feminization of poverty’ reflects another core area of our work through which we have addressed the impact of globalization on the use of natural resources and on women’s access to the commons, and how international agreements under the World Trade Organization impact arenas of women’s economic participation. In this context, WISCOMP’s research agenda has taken on board questions of food security, land rights and water security in South Asia.
Over a four-year period, WISCOMP facilitated several peer reviews and roundtable discussions with a cross-section of policymakers, scholars, and grassroots practitioners, following which five books were published—each suggesting alternative frames to revisit and refashion the scripts on security.
WISCOMP’s work in this area got an unexpected fillip from the 2004 Tsunami and 2005 Kashmir Earthquake. Traditional entrenched notions of ‘state’ security, sacrosanct interstate frontiers, or complete self-reliance were washed away in the span of a few minutes when the disasters struck. They created opportunities for setting aside old frameworks within which ‘reconstruction’ and ‘development’ were defined and long-standing hostilities framed. As such it could be argued that beyond the physical devastation they caused, they also caused fundamental changes along many parameters in the affected societies.
WISCOMP decided to address these emerging issues through its Forum Series designed as structured conversations to take forward our research agenda on non-traditional security. These were organized in collaboration with Chaitanya: The Policy Consultancy in Chennai.
The first Forum on Disasters and Security held in Chennai in 2006 sought to:
The second Forum on Gender, HIV/AIDS and Security was an exploration and delineation of the gender dimension of the security challenge posed by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in India. Given that structural context shapes the vulnerability of women to HIV/AIDS and that the infection in turn aggravates their situation, the Forum engaged with the factors that serve as a source of further insecurity for women. The discussion at the Forum was around two pivots:
The third Forum on Security, Displacement, and Livelihood of Coastal Communities in Southern India brought together academics, fisheries experts, activists, media persons and NGO leaders to discuss the human security situation in the coastal communities of India and the possible impact of latest developments such as the CRZ notification, nuclear and thermal power plants, port construction and expansion projects, and other ‘development’ projects such as Sethusamudram canal project. The Forum deliberations foregrounded the issues of human security of the coastal communities to inform, educate, and catalyze appropriate policy responses.