The Performance of Mass Rape: War, Trauma, and Limit Phenomena(CFP)

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Special Issue of Women and Performance

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

Guest Editor: Sel J. Hwahng

From World War II to the present, the vast majority of armed conflicts have been fought in developing countries. For instance, according to Christian Scherrer, of 150 conflicts since World War II, 130 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. And 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?

Mass rape systems during armed conflict may include but are not limited to the following: Pacific War/World War II (including the Japanese military sex slavery system and the Rape of Nanjing); Bangladesh War of Liberation; Vietnam War; Colombian Armed Conflict; Guatemalan Civil War; Balkan Conflicts (including Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo); Angolan Civil War; Mozambican Civil War; Salvadoran Civil War; Myanmar (formerly Burma) Civil War; Liberian Civil Wars; Rwandan genocide; Sudanese Civil Wars and Darfur conflict; Congo Wars and Civil War (Democratic Republic of Congo); Ugandan Armed Conflict; and Sierra Leone Civil War.

This special issue will address some of these questions:

What are the ritualized aspects and practices of mass rape systems?

How do mass rape systems perform gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, nationalism, and religion?

How do colonial, postcolonial, Cold War, and post-Cold War geopolitical dynamics inform and shape actors within mass rape systems situated in particular theaters of armed conflict?

How does the act of repeatedly bearing witness to mass rape render such atrocities representable or unrepresentable, intelligible or unintelligible?

How do trauma, terror, and disconnection perform in mass rape systems?

How are responses to mass rape systems performed and/or ritualized?

How are the representations of mass rape systems performed in various geopolitical locations, including the U.S.?

How can the investigation of performative aspects of mass rape systems reveal new insights and applications for the prevention of and intervention in such atrocities?

How can the investigation of performative aspects of mass rape systems reveal new insights and applications for the treatment of trauma from such atrocities?

Topics may include but are not limited to the following:

    • Child Soldiers Female and/or Male (including human trafficking; rape as initiation into military service; coerced sexual slavery as military duty; and militarized youth cultures)

    • Traumatic Effects (including physical and reproductive injuries from rape and torture; physical and sexual mutilations; social disintegration; PTSD such as terror, hyperarousal, intrusion, constriction, and disconnection; silencing; historical trauma; and secondary trauma or injury)

    • Ethnocultural Gender/Sex Systems (including gender and sexual identifications and practices before, during, and after armed conflicts; and new gender, sexual, and/or kinship formations arising from mass rape trauma)
    • Religion (including religion as justification for rape; mass rape across religious differences; mass rape within same religious affiliation; Christianization and Islamization of genocide, massacres, and mass rape; and syncretic religious formations in mass rape systems)
    • Drug Use (including coerced substance use as contraception; and voluntary or coerced substance use to facilitate mass rape and sexual exploitation)
    • HIV/AIDS, Sexually Transmitted Infections, and Sexual and Reproductive Health (including HIV/STIs used as weapons of war; HIV/STI seroprevalence of women and children after armed conflict; HIV/STI seroprevalence of child soldiers; forced pregnancies; forced contraception; forced abortions; and sexual traumas such as vaginal fistulae and prolapsed uteri)
    • Weapons (including arms trafficking of light weapons; transnational profiteering; Cold War geopolitical nation-state maneuvers; colonial capital accumulation; and postcolonial and post-Cold War crises of failed and unraveling states)
    • Propaganda (including entrenchment of racial, ethnic, or religious identifications and differences; and gender disparagement and objectification)
    • Documentation of Atrocities and Violence (including journalism; interviews; testimonies; case studies; online and print publishing; and research methodologies)
    • Interpretation of Atrocities and Violence (including interpretive performance, theater, film, video, websites, and fiction; memoirs; and reflections by humanitarian workers)
    • Demobilization, Demilitarization, Rehabilitation, Reintegration, and Destigmatization of Mass Rape Survivors and Actors (including psychosocial, biomedical, and indigenous healing modalities; and capacity building, best practices, and strategies employed by indigenous and transnational NGOs)
    • Justice Systems and Grassroots Organizing (including local, national, and international legal claims and actions; indigenous and transnational women's groups and organizing; and alternative social formations and peer networks among survivors)
    • Comparative analyses between mass rape systems are especially welcome

Submission Guidelines

Please submit manuscripts electronically as email attachments in Microsoft Word. All emails should be addressed to Sel J. Hwahng at and Jeanne Vaccaro at Please write "Women and Performance: Special Issue" in 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. Submissions due no later than December 15, 2007.

Sel J. Hwahng, Ph.D.

Research Investigator
The Transgender Project
Institute for Treatment and Services Research
National Development and Research Institutes, Inc.
71 West 23rd Street, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10010

Visiting Scholar and Adjunct Professor
Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University
424 Hamilton Hall
1130 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027
mail code: 2880