Rape as a Practice of War: Towards a Typology of Political Violence - Elisabeth J. Wood

Seminar Violence and exiting violence - Thursday, April 5, 2018
5:30 pm
5:30 pm

Much of the literature whether academic, policy or journalism holds that when rape occurs frequently on the part of an armed organization, it is a strategy (or tactic or weapon) of war. But this presumption does not explain the well-documented variation in conflict-related rape. In particular, some cases of conflict-related rape are better understood as a practice: it has not been purposefully adopted as policy for group objectives at some level of command but is nonetheless tolerated by commanders and driven by social interactions among combatants.

Departing from principal agent models of political violence, Elisabeth J. Wood emphasizes the horizontal, social interactions between combatants in addition to the usual vertical relationship between the combatant and commander to develop a typology of conflict-related rape that distinguishes between rape as a practice and as organizational policy. She analyzes when rape is likely to be prevalent as a practice and as a strategy, emphasizing not only the gendered norms and beliefs of the society from which combatants come but also those of combatants and commanders as re-shaped by socialization processes within the organization. Elisabeth J. Wood concludes with a brief assessment of the argument’s implications and suggest that the typology is relevant for analysis of political violence in general.


Elisabeth Jean Wood is Crosby Professor of the Human Environment and Professor of Political Science, International and Area Studies at Yale University. She is the author of Forging Democracy from Below: Insurgent Transitions in South Africa and El Salvador and Insurgent Collective Action and Civil War in El Salvador, and co-editor of Understanding and Proving International Sex Crimes and Political Representation.  Among her recent works are “Rape as a Practice of War", “What Should We Mean by ‘Pattern of Violence’?" (with Francisco Gutiérrez Sanín), "Ideology in Civil War: Beyond Instrumental Adaptation" (with Gutiérrez Sanín). She is currently writing two books, one on sexual violence during war and a second on political violence in Colombia (with Gutiérrez Sanín). A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she teaches courses on comparative politics, political violence, collective action, and qualitative research methods.

Elisabeth Wood will also speak at the seminar of the chair Global Destinies of Latin America of the Collège d'études mondiales, about The Agrarian Legacies of Latin American Civil Wars in Comparative Perspective, on Thursday, April 5 at 3pm.

Published at 5 April 2018