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Outbidding and Gender: Dynamics in the Colombian Civil War



The civil conflict in Colombia has gained attention in part for the inclusion of women in rebel forces and peace negotiations between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Scholarship has often explained the FARC’s decision to mobilize women as both an ideological and tactical move, designed to increase the ranks of the organization and signal commitment to leftist principles. In this paper, I argue that the incorporation of women into Colombia’s civil war is better understood by viewing the country’s various leftist armed movements (including the ELN, EPL, and M-19) through a comparative framework. By applying the theoretical concept of outbidding, I argue that the mobilization and expansion of women’s roles in Colombian armed groups was in fact an intersubjective process, driven by competition among leftist movements existing in a crowded marketplace. In contrast to alternative explanations that focus on mobilization as an elite-driven process, I argue that the outbidding dynamic exposes agency among women recruited to these groups and demonstrates the potential for women to create strategic openings in times of conflict.

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