Mary Moran


This paper argues that the 2005 election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to the Liberian presidency is best understood in the historical and cultural context of pre-war authority-bearing positions available to women, rather than as an outcome of the Liberian civil war itself. Against a literature that tends to view “traditional” African societies as hostile to both democracy and women’s rights, I contend that gender, conflict, and democracy are inter-twined in more complex relationships. Post-conflict societies such as Liberia are interesting not only as sites of intervention by international organizations seeking to capitalize on the “window of opportunity” available to re-make gender relations, but as places where truly innovative discourses of women’s political participation are likely to emerge.

Author Biography

Mary H. Moran is Professor of Anthropology and Africana and Latin American Studies at Colgate University, where she also serves as coordinator for the program in African Studies. She is the author of Civilized Women: Gender and Prestige in Southeastern Liberia (Cornell University Press, 1990), Liberia:The Violence of Democracy (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), and numerous book chapters and articles, most recently those in Annual Review of Anthropology, African Studies Review, Anthropology Quarterly, and Third World Quarterly, and in Gunewardena and Kingsolver, eds., The Gender of Globalization (School for Advanced Research Press, 2007). Her current research project concerns the renegotiation of gender in post-war Liberia through the experiences of male non-combatants.