Doing Women, Peace and Security in EU civilian CSDP: a community of practice in the making?

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis asks what taking seriously the work of Gender Advisors and Gender Focal Points in the European Union's Common Security and Defence Policy (EU CSDP) reveals about the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda and its implementation. Its central argument is that paying attention to the ways gender practitioners engage with the WPS agenda as a community of practice enables us to uncover new dynamics that are key to WPS implementation. To make this argument, the thesis brings feminist institutionalist (FI) insights to bear on international practice theory (IPT) to offer a novel reading of the concept of community of practice that is sensitive to gender and institutions. It develops a methodological approach that relies on document analysis and original empirical material produced through interviews with Gender Advisors and Focal Points in civilian CSDP missions, but with an eye to the unfolding of practices and a sustained awareness to the researcher's positionality through 'feminist reflexivity' and critical friendship. The thesis unpacks three features of the CSDP WPS community of practice. First, the CSDP WPS community of practice is a heterogeneous and hierarchical space that is structured alongside problematic knowledge hierarchies and that reproduces specific notions about who can do WPS in CSDP. Second, the community of practice is also a space for gender practitioners to define and negotiate what implementing the WPS agenda in civilian EU CSDP should look like through mechanisms of mutual engagement and brokerage. Third, the thesis underlines that the work carried out by gender practitioners at the boundary of the community of practice, conceptualised as 'boundary push' fundamental to the implementation of the WPS agenda, while remaining limited. Overall, the implementation of the WPS agenda is shaped by institutional rules and goals, which reproduce conservative and problematic understandings of gender and WPS. Yet, engaging with WPS and gender mainstreaming as a practice can bring into relief the gender politics of EU CSDP and create opportunities to re-define CSDP security practices in different ways.
Date of Award1 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMartin Coward (Supervisor), Georgina Waylen (Supervisor) & Laura Mcleod (Supervisor)


  • security
  • WPS agenda
  • feminist institutionalism
  • community of practice
  • practice theory
  • gender
  • EU

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