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Becoming Abject: Rape as a Weapon of War.

Diken, Bulent and Laustsen, Carsten Bagge. (2005) Becoming Abject: Rape as a Weapon of War. Body & Society, 11 (1). pp. 111-128. ISSN 1460-3632

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Abstract

Organized rape has been an integral aspect of warfare for a long time even though classics on warfare have predominantly focused on theorizing ‘regular’ warfare, that is, the situations in which one army encounters another in a battle to conquer or defend a territory. Recently, however, much attention has been paid to asymmetric warfare and, accordingly, to phenomena such as guerrilla tactics, terrorism, hostage taking and a range of identity-related aspects of war such as religious fundamentalism, holy war, ethnic cleansing and war rape. In fact, war rape can be taken as a perfect example of an asymmetric strategy. In war rape the soldier attacks a civilian (not a fellow combatant) and a woman (not another male soldier), and does this only indirectly with the aim of holding or taking a territory. The primary target here is to inflict trauma and through this to destroy family ties and group solidarity within the enemy camp. This article understands war rape as a fundamental way of abandoning subjects: rape is the mark of sovereignty stamped directly on the body, that is, it is essentially a bio-political strategy using (or better, abusing) the distinction between the self and the body. Through an analysis of the way rape was carried out by the predominantly paramilitary Serbian forces on Bosnian soil, this article theorizes a two-fold practice of abjection: through war rape an abject is introduced within the woman’s body (sperm or forced pregnancy), transforming her into an abject-self rejected by the family, excluded by the community and quite often also the object of a self-hate, sometimes to the point of suicide. This understanding of war rape is developed in the article through a synthesis of the literature on abandonment (Agamben, Schmitt) and abjection (Bataille, Douglas, Kristeva) and concomitantly it is argued that the penetration of the woman’s body works as a metaphor for the penetration of enemy lines. In addition it is argued that this bio-political strategy, like other forms of sovereignty, operates through the creation of an ‘inclusive exclusion’. The woman and the community in question are inscribed within the enemy realm of power as those excluded.

Item Type: Article
Journal or Publication Title: Body & Society
Uncontrolled Keywords: abandonment • biopolitics • perversion • rape • religion • shame • social bond • sovereignty • transgression
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences > Sociology
ID Code: 11288
Deposited By: Mrs Yaling Zhang
Deposited On: 07 Aug 2008 09:36
Refereed?: Yes
Published?: Published
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2012 14:59
Identification Number:
URI: http://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/id/eprint/11288

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