Skip to McMaster Navigation Skip to Site Navigation Skip to main content
McMaster logo

Arts & Science Program

First-year Arts & Science Capstone Project: Laila Somani

Laila Somani

Winter 2024 Capstone Project Title: Women Suicide Bombers: A Spectrum Analysis of Patriarchal Implications

Project Description: My study on women suicide bombers sought to understand the ways in which patriarchal systems are upheld and undermined through the rising phenomenon of terrorist organizations using women suicide bombers. The increasing presence of women suicide bombers prompted the question of whether women occupying space in such male-dominant organizations could work in favour of women’s rights. I developed a spectrum model in order to accurately represent how the patriarchy is implicated in cases of women suicide bombers around the world. My research suggests that the patriarchy is unanimously upheld.

The 1C06 Capstone experience: I take interest in international affairs (my first capstone was on neocolonialism and the Belt and Road Initiative in Kenya) and in light of recent protests that I’ve seen, I was inspired to take a closer look at radicalization. So, my capstone proposal was actually more focused on the ways in which women become radicalized and subsequently become part of terrorist organizations. Through further research, I discovered a surprisingly substantial body of literature on the gendered components of the increasing use of women suicide bombers. So, I shifted my focus onto patriarchy and zoomed in onto women suicide bombers as a subcategory of women involved in terrorist organizations. I learned from last semester that it isn’t a great idea to write 3000 words in a weekend, so I tried to space out working on my capstone as best as possible. Because I started earlier, I think I was just constantly revising as I went. I admit that most of my good ideas were thought of in the shower. Especially this semester, I found the capstone not to be an intimidating task but an exciting opportunity to explore something really niche with a lot of depth.

Key Takeaways: A big takeaway of mine is that there are always gaps in academic literature to fill. It happened to be the case that the literature I explored on women suicide bombers only used normative understandings of patriarchy, and so I was able to provide a unique product by applying a very specific and robust theory of patriarchy to understandings of women suicide bombers.

Click here to read interviews with the other first year Arts & Science students.