The Relationship between Violence and Sexuality

31 October – 2 November 2019, Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement of Research and Culture, Germany

Armed conflict and wartime sexual violence are based on practices of violence. These ‘violences’ are not necessarily premised on conscious decisions, but are also an expression of affects and emotions. They involve different practices and objects. Complex constellations of violence and bodies challenge us to understand the enactment of these violences and against whom they are directed. How do belligerents deal with emotional and affective energies? What do we know about the experience of sexual violence from the point of view of its victims? How can the bodily aspect of sexual violence be theorised? How can we capture the relationship between individual lived experiences and collective practices of violence in war?

Cultural ideas about sex and gender, as well as conventions of sexuality, represent social and political interests within specific social formations. Acts of sexual violence in armed conflict are not merely expressions of violence in the ‘exceptional situation’ of warfare. They are also closely linked to everyday sexual practices within specific social and political frameworks. What is the relationship between sexuality and violence in war? What is ‘sexual’ about sexual violence? How can we conceptualise interspersonal relations such as love or intimacy in these contexts? How can we disentangle the relationship between consensual relations, commercial sex, bartering and sexual violence?


Thursday, 31 October

In Plain Sight: Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict
Book Launch and Discussion with Urvashi Butalia, Dubravka Žarkov and the editors, Gaby Zipfel, Regina Mühlhäuser and Kirsten Campbell

Friday, 1 November

Welcome and Opening Remarks by Regina Mühlhäuser & Gaby Zipfel
Introductory Round

Conflict, Rape, and Sexual Desire
Input by Jelke Boesten

Some Remarks on the Relation of Sexuality and Violence
Input by Gaby Zipfel

What does this Year's Discussion mean for the Work of the SVAC research group?
Working Groups

On Being a Woman. Sexual Violence in Refugee Camps
Input by Debra Bergoffen

Is it a Crime of Sex or Violence? Conceptual Problems in the Criminalisation of Sexual Violence
Input by Kirsten Campbell

Saturday, 2 November

Sexual Violence and Biopolitical Sovereignty
Input by Renée Heberle

Mayorga was just a Prostitute. Sex, Violence, Sex-Work
Input by Júlia Garraio

Sexuality, Violence, Visuality
Elissa Mailänder

Inexpressible Pain and Rape Violence
Nwarsungu Chiwengo

Final Discussion


  • Debra Bergoffen, Emerita Professor of Philosophy at the George Mason University in Washington D.C., USA
  • Jelke Boesten, Reader in Gender and Development at Kings College in London, England
  • Pascale Bos, Associate Professor in the Department of Germanic Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, USA
  • Urvashi Butalia, Writer, Director of Zubaan Books, Neu Delhi, Inda
  • Kirsten Campbell, Reader in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK
  • Nwarsungu Chiwengo, Professor in the Department of English Studies, Creighton University, USA, and Associate Faculty in the Department of Literature at University of Lumumba, DRC
  • Louise Du Toit, Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Stellenbosch near Cape Town in South Africa
  • Lisa Gabriel, Freelance Researcher for the Working Group "War & Gender" at the Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement for Science and Culture in Germany
  • Júlia Garraio, Researcher at the Center for Social Studies at the University of Coimbra in Portugal
  • Christa Hämmerle, Associate Professor of Modern History and Women´s and Gender History at the Department of History, University of Vienna, Austria
  • Marta Havryshko, Writer, Member of the Department of Contemporary History, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kiev, Ukraine
  • Renée Heberle, Professor in the Department Political Science, University of Toledo, USA
  • Elissa Mailänder, Associate Professor in the Department of History at Sciences Po Paris in France
  • Gorana Mlinarevi, Researcher in ‘The Gender of Justice’-Project, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Regina Mühlhäuser, Researcher at the Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Culture and Associate Researcher at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research in Germany
  • Atreyee Sen, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark
  • Yuki Tanaka, Research Professor of History, Emeritus at the Hiroshima Peace Institute, Hiroshima City University, Japan
  • Dubravka Žarkov, Professor Emerita of Gender, Conflict and Development at the International Institute of Social Studies/EUR, The Hague, Netherlands
  • Gaby Zipfel, Researcher at the Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement of Research and Culture and Associate Researcher at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research, Germany

This workshop was kindly supported by the Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement of Research and Culture.