Chapter 29: Abstract

Conceptualizing Sexual Violence in Post-Cold War Global Conflicts

Dubravka Zarkov (Erasmus University Rotterdam, Institute for Social Studies)

In Oxford Handbook of Gender, War, and the Western World since 1600, ed. by Karen Hagemann et al. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 727-45.


Recent scholarship conceptualizes sexual violence as an inherent part of war violence, but emphasizes its varying pattern across conflicts, armed groups and small units. However, some cases of sexual violence in war have remained invisible within both feminist and mainstream academia and politics, while others have been overexposed. This imbalance has only received more attention in feminist scholarship since the Millennium. The chapter analyses in its first section the debates on sexual violence in the post-Cold War global conflicts. It argues that the wartime rapes of women in the wars in former Yugoslavia (1991–2001), to some extent Rwanda (1990–93) and the sexual violence against men at the Abu Ghraib prison during the second Iraq War (2003–11) have stimulated major shifts in feminist theorizing of sexual violence against women and men in war. Afterwards, it discusses the repercussions of the most common conceptualization of sexual violence in war. In a third section it reflects the theoretical challenges of the conceptualization of sexual violence against men. The chapter ends with reflections on fruitful avenues of future theory and research.


Post–Cold War; Yugoslav wars; Rwandan genocide; Second Iraq War; Abu Ghraib; sexual violence; war-time rape; gender.

Part IV: "From the Global Cold War to the Conflicts of the Post-Cold War Era" of the Oxford Handbook on Gender, War and the Western World since 1600.

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