Contesting the Politics of Genocidal Rape
Affirming the Dignity of the Vulnerable Body
Routledge – 2012 – 132 pages
Rape, traditionally a spoil of war, became a weapon of war in the ethnic cleansing campaign in Bosnia. The ICTY Kunarac court responded by transforming wartime rape from an ignored crime into a crime against humanity. In its judgment, the court argued that the rapists violated the Muslim women’s right to sexual self-determination. Announcing this right to sexual integrity, the court transformed women’s vulnerability from an invitation to abuse into a mark of human dignity. This close reading of the trial, guided by the phenomenological themes of the lived body and ambiguity, feminist critiques of the autonomous subject and the liberal sexual/social contract, critical legal theory assessments of human rights law and institutions, and psychoanalytic analyses of the politics of desire, argues that the court, by validating women’s epistemic authority (their right to establish the meaning of their experience of rape) and affirming the dignity of the vulnerable body (thereby dethroning the autonomous body as the embodiment of dignity), shows us that human rights instruments can be used to combat the epidemic of wartime rape if they are read as de-legitimating the authority of the masculine autonomous subject and the gender codes it anchors.
1. The Case: Vulnerable Body on Trial 2. Slavery, Torture Rape: Assaulting the Dignity of the Vulnerable Body 3. Genocidal Rape as Spectacle 4. The Verdict: Affirming the Dignity of the Vulnerable Body 5. Representing the Human: The Lingua Franca of Human Rights 6. Of the Politics and Pleasures of the Vulnerable Body
Debra B. Bergoffen is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at George Mason University.