12,000

We have over 12,000 students, from over 100 countries, within one of the safest campuses in the UK

93%

93% of Lancaster students go into work or further study within six months of graduating

Home > Research > Publications & Outputs > Becoming Abject: Rape as a Weapon of War.
View graph of relations

« Back

Becoming Abject: Rape as a Weapon of War.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2005
JournalBody and Society
Journal number1
Volume11
Number of pages18
Pages111-128
Original languageEnglish

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.