Emma Swan

Study program:
International Development and Global Studies
Current affiliation:
University of Ottawa

Emma Swan (international development and global studies, University of Ottawa) is exploring the relationship between violence, the construction of male gender identities, and peacebuilding in conflict settings.

Doctoral research

A martyr or a peacebuilder? Exploring the nexus of masculinities, nonviolence, and peace

Through firsthand narratives and the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Emma’s research explores how settler-colonialism and Western neo-colonialism impact male gender identity in the Palestinian resistance movement. Emma endeavors to understand why and how certain men reject armed resistance to the Israeli Occupation and instead opt for nonviolent and unarmed tools for building a future state. A substantial but underappreciated movement of Palestinian men refuse to prescribe to an ideology that accepts the use of arms as a means of creating a peaceful reality free from insecurity, violence, and occupation. We can only understand these men’s decision-making if we a) think about how men and women in the region experience gender differently, b) understand the extent to which masculinity is conceptualized in terms of violent engagement/resistance, and c) explore what space exists for alternative masculinities and for men who choose nonviolence and peacebuilding as the means of promoting dignity and inclusive communities.

Emma Swan is a gender and development specialist and a doctoral candidate at the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa. Her research, supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship program and the International Development Research Centre, focuses on masculinities and nonviolence in the Palestinian territories, particularly the relationship between various manifestations of violence and the construction of gender identities.

Before beginning her PhD, Emma partnered with UN Women, collaborating with the South Asia office in New Delhi on drafting the Indian Government’s National Action Plan for implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security. Emma has also worked on gender and development in Canadian foreign policy, particularly its application in fragile and conflict-affected states.

Emma received her master’s degree in human security and peacebuilding at Royal Roads University, where she investigated the nexus of gender, culture, and peacebuilding in Palestine. Her thesis explored male and female peacebuilders’ gendered interpretation of Sumud, a uniquely Palestinian concept of steadfastness that advocates peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation while building peace. During her master’s work, Emma served as the director of the Women and Peace Program at the International Women’s Rights Project.

In 2012, Emma co-designed, facilitated, and directed the Karama Library Project in Dheisheh Refugee Camp in the West Bank. This project led to the creation of a 1,500-book bilingual (Arabic and English) library in the camp. After the library was largely set up, Emma returned to Canada to collaborate with Canadian organizations and individuals to secure continued funding and support for the library. Local community members now run the library and Emma continues to support internal monitoring and evolution of the project.