Carol Cohn is the founding director of the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights and a Lecturer of Women's Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Cohn is recognised for addressing issues of gender in global politics, particularly conflict and security issues. She has published in academic and policy contexts with major research interests lying in the realm of gender and armed conflict, the gendered discourses of US national security elites and gender mainstreaming in international security institutions. In addition to her research, Cohn facilitates training and workshops for United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and has been active in the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security since 2001.
Cohn's career includes a stance described as feminist anti-militarism. Cohn edited a well-received 2013 collection of essays on the topic of women and war in which it is argued that the topic of war cannot be understood without understanding gender dynamics.
In her 1987 article, "Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals," Cohn discussed the language and imagery used in defense professionals discourse with a concentrated focus on the sexual subtext used and the extensive use of abstract language and euphemisms. Terms such as "collateral damage" replacing "loss of life" and "RV's" in place of "nuclear bombs" are argued to demonstrate the abstract language used by defense intellectuals. Cohn argues that sexualized language including terms such as vertical "erector launchers", "thrust to weight ratios", "soft lay downs", "deep penetration", and "orgasmic whumps" are common place in nuclear weaponry and strategy conversations. Cohn links the domesticated and humanized language and imagery as a way for defense professionals to distance themselves from the reality and anxiety of war. Additionally, the 'technostrategic' language that is used is a way to restrict debate solely to defense intellectuals and professionals who are versed in the language. It is argued that this effectively dismisses and silences voices from outside the military and nuclear sphere. Cohn suggests that the reference point of the language revolves around the weapons themselves, thus, because the language is designed to talk about weapons there is no way that concerns of human life or society can be legitimately expressed. If it is not part of the language these values or concerns are effectively dismissed or deemed illegitimate. This piece demonstrates how important language is and how it can be gendered. It brings up questions about language relating to whom it allows communications with and what it allows one to think as well as say.
- Women and Wars (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013). ISBN 9780745642444
- "Mainstreaming Gender in UN Security Policy: A Path to Political Transformation?" in Global Governance: Feminist Perspectives, eds. Shirin M. Rai and Georgina Waylen (London: Palgrave, 2008). ISBN 9780230537040
- "Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 12, no. 4 (Summer 1987).
- "Who we are: staff". Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- "Staff Directory". University of Massachusetts, Boston. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- Sylvester, Christine (8 April 2013). "Book Review: Women and Wars, edited by Carol Cohn". The LSE Review of Books. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- Shepherd, Laura J. (2013). "Women and Wars: Contested Histories, Uncertain Futures - Carol Cohn (ed.) Book Review". Gender and Development. 21 (2). Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- Cohn, C. (2013). Women and wars. Cambridge: Polity Press.
- Owen, Jean (27 May 2013). "Book Review: Women and Wars, ed. Carol Cohn". The Feminist and Women’s Studies Association (UK & Ireland). Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- Cohn, Carol. "Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals . (Summer, 1987), pp. 687-718" (PDF). Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. 12 (4): 687–718. doi:10.1086/494362. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
- Weems, Charlie. "Carol Cohn: Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals". Passive Progressive 22 February 2011. Retrieved 20 June 2014.