A spectrum of relational autonomy, illustrated using the case studies of female suicide bombers

Herjeet Marway
University of Birmingham
When women become perpetrators of suicide bombing, their agency – their ability to act upon and affect the world – is often denied. There are a number of reasons for this and one this thesis considers is that – as females – they are not expected to be violent. Accordingly, such women are judged to be coerced or incompetent, and so unable to rule themselves sufficiently as agents. Models of autonomy propose various frameworks for assessing whether acts or persons are self-governing, and the relational approach in particular has garnered much support recently. However, some aspects of the relational account remain under-theorised, including how autonomy might be measured. In this thesis, I aim to bring these two elements together by examining whether an extension of the relational model may offer a way in which to estimate the autonomy of the bombers in a more nuanced fashion. I make two claims. First, that the relational conception of the agent and autonomy ‘fits’ the bombers. Second, that my spectrum view, which is rooted in the relational approach, maps the bomber’s autonomy approximately but in detail. As such, my spectrum view is a befitting notion of autonomy and allows a graded and comparative representation of the bomber’s autonomy
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