November 13, 2007

1st North East Conference on Sexual Violence

The first of a series of annual conferences in recognition of the
International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Monday 26th November 2007
9.30am – 4.30pm
The Penthouse suite
Collingwood College
Durham University

Confirmed sessions include:
• Setting the context: current issues relating to sexual violence – Angie Conroy (Rape Crisis National Policy Officer)
• ‘Why Women?’ – Film and presentation by Kiran Dhami (Women’s Resource Centre)
• How to set up a Sexual Violence Forum – Professor Jill Radford (Teesside University)
• Can the criminal justice system be ‘victim-centered’? – Two views and discussion by Dr Matthew Hall (University of Sheffield) and Dr Nicole Westmarland (Durham University and Rape Crisis)
• The Same but Different? Domestic and Sexual Violence – Panel discussion chaired by Cullagh Warnock (Northern Rock Foundation)

Who should attend: Statutory and voluntary sector professionals working with client groups who have experienced sexual violence, especially those responsible for implementation of the Sexual Violence Action Plan; volunteers; academics; professionals working with other forms of violence against women who want to learn more about sexual
violence; youth workers; members of Crime Reduction Partnerships; healthcare professionals including GPs, midwifes and school nurses; criminal justice professionals including police and Crown Prosecution Service.

Organised by School of Applied Social Sciences, Durham University on behalf of Tyneside Rape Crisis, Darlington & Co. Durham Rape Crisis and Redcar & Cleveland Rape Crisis.

For a booking form, please contact:

Violence, Bodies, Selves: A UK Conference

Violence, Bodies, Selves: Feminist Engagements in International Politics
University of Manchester
23 May 2008

In celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Gender & IR in Britain this workshop aims to bring together scholars and practitioners from a variety of disciplines and organisations to discuss the multitude of violent practices in international politics and how these practices operate on particular bodies. We aim to explore the ways in which feminist theories of international politics have (re)conceptualised and challenged dominant categories in the field, such as war, conflict and peace. In particular, the workshop will seek to think through how the rendering of particular gendered subjectivities make possible particular violent practices in international politics. In so doing, participants will be encouraged to reflect on feminist political and philosophical interventions in the field over the past twenty years and how these interventions are valuable and can make a difference in thinking through our contemporary contexts.

Considering the pervasiveness of violence in the practices of international politics, Violence, Bodies, Selves asks participants to share their work on gender and violence in order to consider the affects/effects on who we are, and importantly, on who we may become, in the world we live in. Potential questions to explore in thinking through the theme, Violence, Bodies, Selves are:

How have feminist scholars fundamentally shifted the terrain of debate on practices of violence?
• How have bodies-in-violence and bodies-of-violence been rethought by feminist scholars?
• Do academic analytic categories produce obstacles to understanding the production of violence?

The workshop will be open to academics (we especially welcome postgraduates), researchers, painters, photographers, poets, and activists. We are especially keen to work with ‘art’ and ‘artists’ (widely conceived). We follow Picasso in his view that, ‘painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war against brutality and darkness’. We want to explore what role ‘art’ performs/plays in relation to understanding international violence.

Keynote Speaker: Christine Sylvester (Lancaster University)
Film Screening: Cynthia Weber (Lancaster University)
Art Exhibit: John Keane

Please send abstracts to Cristina Masters at The deadline for submission is December 15, 2007.

Holding the Unwanted: A Talk on Women's Trafficking

This event looks really interesting, if anyone can make it?



(University of Warwick)

Holding the unwanted: is there a place in gender studies for a psychodynamic approach towards women’s trafficking?

Wednesday 21st November, 5pm


All welcome

ABSTRACT: Holding the unwanted: is there a place in gender studies for a psychodynamic approach towards women's trafficking?

Milena Stateva[1]

'You have left me alone, all in tears - you are heartless!' This text message sent by a trafficker to his ex-victim in an attempt to bring her back and one that has recently been publicly presented by a representative of the Danish persecution office is the starting point of the proposed paper. It illustrates that more and more often traffickers' strategy to subdue and exploit their victims is not brutal violence. Rather, it can be argued that traffickers nowadays predominantly use – consciously or unconsciously - societal incapacity in both countries of origin and those of destination to emotionally hold those who feel unwanted and unwantable. Exploring such an approach towards victimhood and agency, the paper challenges the predominant in gender studies portrayal of voiceless children and powerless women caught in a trap of violence and exploitation behind human trafficking. Is this a line that worth to be in pursuit of when informing prevention and reintegration policies?

[1] Milena Stateva a PhD candidate at the University of Warwick (UK) and coordinates a programme for development of service providers working with survivors of trafficking run by “Animus Association” Foundation (Bulgaria).

September 25, 2007

Women and Performance: Call for Papers

Writing about web page

Special Issue: The Performance of Mass Rape: War, Trauma, and Limit Phenomena

Guest Editor: Sel Julian Hwahng

From World War II to the present, the vast majority of armed conflicts have been fought in developing countries. During the period from 1985 to 1996, the proportion of armed conflicts in Latin America remained constant, those in Asia and Europe declined, and the proportion of conflicts in Africa greatly increased. Currently 44% of armed conflicts occur in Africa. Women and children are often disproportionately affected by armed conflict and mass rape is often systematically used as a weapon of war.

To consider mass rape systems in the context of “performance”, however, may give one pause. Yet human rights discourse often refers to “actors”, i.e. participants, in crises or emergencies within specific situated “theaters”, i.e. places of enactment of significant events or actions. And according to Norma Field, “limit phenomena” are catastrophes situated at the limits of comprehension, yet they demonstrate the urgency of confronting reality.

This special issue will therefore interrogate how mass rape systems from World War II to the present have been executed, acknowledged, and addressed through actors performing within theaters of particular armed conflicts, genocides, massacres, and complex emergencies. Mass rape systems from World War II to the present in regions such as Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Eastern Europe during armed conflict will be examined. Traumatic effects of mass rape systems in both individuals and groups will also be interrogated. How can focused attention on these limit phenomena also reveal new insights on gender, race, ethnicity, political economy, social formations, and human agency?

Submission Guidelines

Please submit manuscripts electronically as email attachments in Microsoft Word. All emails should be addressed to Sel Julian Hwahng ( and Jeanne Vaccaro at ( Please write “Women & Performance: Special Issue Call for Papers” in the subject line.

Essays should be double-spaced, with 1 inch margins; articles should not exceed 10,000 words. Please follow the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition. All manuscripts should be submitted with a 500 word abstract.

Deadline for submissions: December 1, 2007.

For more information click here:
Visit the website here:

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Informa plc (“Informa”) Registered Office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London, W1T 3JH. Registered in England and Wales – Number 3099067.

May 24, 2007

Report on the Women Writing Rape Symposium

This is just a note to let you know that a report on the symposium is now available to read on Literature Compass Blog at this link:

May 22, 2007

Poetry: The Desiring "I" Workshop

Writing about web page

One section of the symposium, ‘Women Writing Rape’ on the 28th April 2007 was a creative writing workshop run by Zoë Brigley. Zoë drew on a talk by Vicki Bertram at the recent conference, British and Irish Contemporary Poetry. In her talk, Bertram suggested that woman writers feel anxiety about or actually avoid writing in the lyric “I”. She cites Sarah Maguire who suggests that the ‘fiction of a desiring I’ is difficult for women and that it contradicts a certain kind of conventional femininity. For more please see the website at this link:

Researching Rape: Links to Useful Books

Date/Aquaintance Rape
I Never Called it Rape by Robin Warshaw
Is it Rape? by Joan McGregor

Historical Analysis
Rape: A History from 1860 to the Present by Joanna Bourke

Rape and the Legal System by Jennifer Temkin
Real Rape by Susan Estrich
Sexual Assault and the Justice Gap by Barbara Krahe and Jennifer Temkin

Representing Rape by Susan Ehrlich

The Economics of Fantasy

The Rape Victim by Mary P. Koss and Mary R. Harvey

Color of Rape by Sujata Moorti
Mixed Company by Lillian S. Robinson
Surviving the Silence by Charlotte Pierce Baker

Attitudes Toward Rape by Colleen Ward
Just Sex? by Nicola Gavey
Rape and Representation edited by Brenda R. Silver and Lynn A. Higgins

Researching Rape
Emotionally Involved: The Impact of Researching Rape by Rebecca Campbell

Evolution, Gender and Rape by Tanya Horeck

Sex Tourism
Night Market by Lillian S. Robinson

Mass Rape by Marion Faber
Taken by Force by Robert J. Lilly

April 27, 2007

Jessica Murray: The Body Remembers and Speaks Rape in the Work of Yvonne Vera


This is just a note to inform you that the second of our web-based papers has appeared on the website. The paper is from Jessica Murray of University of York and it is titled “The Body Remembers and Speaks Rape in the Work of Yvonne Vera”. Access it at this link and watch this space for further web-based papers.

This paper will explore Yvonne Vera’s representation of rape through the rubric of Luce Irigaray’s theories. In particular, the emphasis will be on challenging conventional notions of “breaking silence” as the only way towards healing. Irigaray argues that “the right to virginity should be part of girls’ civil identity as a right to respect for their physical and moral integrity” (206). I am following Irigaray and using the term “virginity” to refer to more than the physical intactness of the hymen and to include the “existence of a spiritual interiority” (152) of the girl. In Under The Tongue ,when Zhizha initially stops speaking after the rape she is displaying the silence of the abused child, which constitutes a paralysis of speaking rather than real silence. The paper will show how her silence develops from this passive paralysis to an active returning to her own interiority in order to heal. In a reclamation of herself and her virginity the touching of the two lips that is signified by her silence becomes a healing activity to counter the pain that was caused by the enforced parting of the vaginal lips by the father. It is through this silence that she is able to cultivate the stillness that is necessary to hear the rivers that connect her to the bodies of her mother and grandmother and it is this connection that ultimately enables her to return home.

April 26, 2007

Failing to Theorise Rape?

A thread on the London Feminist Network and a comment made by Delphyne on this blog challenged the introduction on the website accompanying the blog and I post this answer in reply.

What do we mean when we say that feminism has failed to theorise rape?

Some of you have been concerned about a statement in the introduction to our website. It states:

This symposium emerges from the failure of feminism in theorising rape. It seems to have been left to women writers to interrogate the representation of women and rape and this symposium aims to analyse how these writers have subverted terms such as `victim’, `experience’, `survivor’, `active’ and `passive’.

Rereading this now I can see that it is rather ambiguous, but if I direct you to the call for papers, perhaps it will be clearer. The symposium actually emerges from reading an essay by Carine M. Mardorossian entitled `Toward a New Feminist Theory of Rape’. As I explain in the call for papers, Mardorossian argues that for British and American feminisms, `[r]ape has become academia’s undertheorized and apparently untheorizable issue’. Mardorossian asks why there is such `stagnation in the theorizing of sexual violence precisely at a time when the body is so high on the feminist scholars’ list of priorities’ and she seeks to understand this phenomenon. Mardorossian demands an alternative feminist theory that addresses these problems i.e. that `does not accept existing premises and established “truths” but problematizes them by asking alternative questions and offering different conceptions’. However, some feminists have criticised Mardorossian’s suggestions for a solution at the end of her article, because they are rooted in challenging representations rather than in detailed sociological research. Mardorossian demands that feminists `resist the facile opposition between passivity and agency’. She concludes that ultimately feminists must `theorize and reconceptualize the meanings of categories such as “victim” and “experience” rather than merely criticize their use’.

So when we say that feminism has failed to theorise rape we are really talking about feminism as an academic discipline and actually we agree with you that on the whole it is writers, activists, law specialists and other figures less involved in academia who are retheorising rape. However I can see though on reading the web page again that there is an ambiguity so thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Who is theorising rape then?

Despite the claim that feminism has failed to re-theorise rape, this symposium aims to show that the kind of subversive representational deconstruction demanded by Mardorossian is already being performed in contemporary literary texts that deal with sexual violence and this symposium aims to bring some of these feminists together to encourage dialogue, to learn from one another and to discover what else is being done in the field. At the event, there will be speakers talking about writers like Zoe Wicomb, Yvonne Vera, Buchi Emecheta, Sarah Kane, Marina Carr and there will also be papers about how women in `the real world’ are re-theorising rape, such as women in the Holocaust and women writing popular music. There will be a few papers trying to redress representations of women in relation to rape narratives in the cult celebrity machine and newspaper representations.

April 24, 2007

Robin E. Fields on Tracing Rape: The Trauma on Slavery in Toni Morrison's Beloved


This is just a note to inform you that the first of our web-based papers has appeared on the website. The paper is from Dr. Robin E. Field of King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and it is titled “Tracing Rape: The Trauma of Slavery in Toni Morrison’s Beloved”. Access it at this link and watch this space for further web-based papers.

In this paper, I map the complex narratological strategies used by Toni Morrison in Beloved to paint both the individual and the communal trauma and recovery from the atrocities of slavery and Middle Passage. More specifically, I argue that Morrison figures rape as the ultimate signifier of trauma for the black community. In this text, rape is more often mentioned obliquely than portrayed directly, therefore initially appearing to be less prominent an issue; while in fact, Morrison elides the representation of sexual assault as a deliberate narratological strategy. Morrison utilizes the trace, rather than multiple graphic details, to effectively evoke not only the trauma of the specific individual, but the collective suffering of the larger community as well. She seeks not to present a comprehensive portrait of the act of rape and its bodily and psychic repercussions, but instead to offer glimpses into the traumatic event as it gradually becomes comprehensible to its survivors.

Instead of documenting every type of atrocity perpetrated upon black people during slavery, Morrison meditates upon how this community, and one couple in particular – Sethe and Paul D – will be able to heal their deep psychic wounds. Sethe’s rape, whether actual or metaphorical, sets in motion the horrific events from which she still has not recovered as the novel opens; similarly, Paul D’s rapes, along with the other terrible violence he has endured, have kept him from forming a life in the present, as he is constantly battling his traumatic past. In figuring rape as the traumatic event from which this couple must recover, Morrison models how this black community as a whole may heal from the violence and brutality of slavery and Middle Passage.

Simultaneously, Morrison’s project is to underscore the baffling and menacing nature of trauma, as well as the awesome power it exerts over its victims. To do so, she writes trauma as a character in itself, a corporeal presence, rather than a metaphorical or tropological one, with which the others must battle for their bodily and psychic safety. This character, of course, is Beloved herself. The largely internal, private experience of recovery thus shifts from a process experienced within an individual body to a struggle undertaken by the larger community. Just as Morrison blurs the boundaries between metaphorical and actual rape, she conflates the metaphorical battle of one woman fighting her demons into a literal confrontation. Ultimately, Morrison’s representation of rape, which epitomizes the many kinds of violence enacted upon women and men during slavery and Middle Passage, exemplifies how traumatic experience may be represented while also remaining essentially unknowable.


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