Rape as a Practice of War: Towards a Typology of Political Violence
A lecture in the AISSR Conflict, Security & Peacebuilding Speaker Series by Elisabeth Jean Wood, Yale University
Much of the literature, whether academic, policy or journalism, holds that when rape occurs frequently on the part of an armed organization, it is a strategy of war.
But some cases of conflict-related rape are better understood as a practice: it has not been purposefully adopted as policy for group objectives at some level of command but is nonetheless tolerated by commanders. Rape as a practice includes not only opportunistic rape (for private motives) that is tolerated but also rape that arises from the social interactions among combatants.
Departing from principal agent models of political violence, I emphasize not only the usual vertical relationship between combatants and commander but also add the horizontal, social interactions between combatants to develop a typology of conflict-related rape. The typology distinguishes between rape as a practice and as organizational policy (of which one type is rape as a military strategy). I analyze when rape is likely to be prevalent as a practice, emphasizing not only the gendered norms and beliefs of the society from which combatants come but also how socialization processes within the organization – of commanders as well as combatants -- may transform those norms and beliefs.
I conclude with a brief assessment of the implications for researchers, suggesting that the theory and typology are relevant for analysis of political violence in general, and also for policy advocates and policy-makers concerned with conflict-related rape.
About the lecturer
Elisabeth Jean Wood is Crosby Professor of Human Interaction and Professor of Political Science, International and Area Studies at Yale University. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she teaches courses on comparative politics, political violence, collective action, and qualitative research methods.
This lecture is co-sponsored by the AISSR Conflict, Security & Peacebuilding Speaker Series and the Amsterdam Research Centre for Gender and Sexuality (ARC-GS).
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