Forward – Backward? Continuities and Discontinuities

The Fragility of Knowledge and Awareness on Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict

5 – 7 October 2017, Centro Estudos Sociais (CES), Coimbra, Portugal

Last year during our workshop in The Hague, we reflected on »Traps and Gaps of Generating Knowledge on Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict.« As one result, we realized that there is a forward-backward movement, producing continuities and discontinuities of knowledge and awareness on this subject. This fragility of knowledge appears to be a significant problem in times of crisis. Then, the state of knowledge and awareness about gender relations and identities seems to undergo fundamental shifts and changes, often in the form of backlashes in political and scholarly understanding. In this situation, our analysis of traps and gaps in producing research and generating knowledge becomes crucial.

Facing the current political situation and the growing populism in various regions of the world, it is timely to ask whether this hypothesis holds, that is, whether the current political and social developments have impacts on women's rights and gender and sexuality issues.

This fragility of knowledge in times of crisis seems to be a historical recurrence. One might also ask about the mechanisms of such processes in different empirical settings:

  • How can we grasp and describe such mechanisms?
  • Which transformations can be seen in public and political debates?
  • Who starts to make which claim, where, and why?
  • How does this change perceptions and approaches to the subject?
  • Can we observe particular similarities (or differences) across time and space?

Changing approaches and narratives in times of crisis reveal that we cannot rely on a secured state of knowledge and awareness about sexual violence, in particular in armed conflict. On the contrary, knowledge appears to be fragile.

  • How can we describe this fragility?
  • What are the consequences in the short and long term?
  • What does this mean for our work?

We had a closer look at these questions during our workshop in Coimbra, discussing different historical and current scenarios that emphasized the historical continuity between pre-war, war and aftermath; the interplay between military, political and social actors; and the impact of colonial experiences in postcolonial societies.


Thursday, 5 October

Welcome & Introductory Round

Discussion: Current Developments in the Field

Friday, 6 October

Opening Remarks:
Julia Garraio, Regina Mühlhäuser, Gaby Zipfel

Scenario I: The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina
Input by Gabi Mischkowski

Scenario II: The Holocaust
Input by Pascale Bos

Public Session with the Center for International Politics & Conflict Resolution

Ngwarsungu Chiwengo: Where is the knowledge of rape within Congolese Society after the Eastern Congo Crisis?

Saturday, 7 October

Presentation of CES-Project »Desire, Miscegenation and Violence: the now and then of the Portuguese Colonial War« by Maria Paula Meneses

Scenario III: The wars in the Congo
Input by Ngwarsungu Chiwengo

Scenario IV: The Red Army in Germany at end of WWII
Input by Regina Mühlhäuser and Gaby Zipfel

Final Discussion
If awareness and knowledge on this subject is fragile and gets lost time and time again, what does this mean for our practices?