Added: August 17, 2013 – Last updated: October 3, 2015


Author: Gwyn Daniel Bassett

Title: A Discourse Analysis of Rape in War

Subtitle: Case Studies from Bosnia, Burma and Rwanda

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, University of Bristol

Supervisors: Judith A. Squires, Jutta Weldes

Year: 2005

Pages: viii + 219pp.

OCLC Number: 500267159 – Find a Library: WorldCat

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century | African History: Rwandan History; Asian History: Burmese History; European History: Bosnian History | Types: Genocidal Rape / Rwandan Genocide; Types: Wartime Rape / Bosnian War, Internal Conflict in Myanmar



* EThOS: E-Theses Online Service (Free Access: Registration Necessary)

* Explore Bristol Research (Free Access)



The first wave of Feminist International Relations (IR) and Gender and IR has demonstrated the importance of gender to IR, and commonly cited the example of rape in war; however, this example has assumed a unified understanding of rape: the reasons men use rape against women are explored as symptomatic, and reinforcing, of patriarchy. This thesis argues that rape must be understood in its local context, and that there is a multiplicity of understandings of rape in war. Rape cannot simply be observed, but must be imposed through language. A positivist framework cannot adequately analyse this multiplicity. The thesis therefore uses a post-positivist framework - specifically a critical discourse analysis informed by Foucault - to problematise rape in war.
Three case studies are used - from Bosnia, Burma and Rwanda - to first analyse local discourses of rape in war, and secondly analyse the effect of international influences on discourses of rape in war. The case studies draw predominantly on testimonies obtained by the International Criminal Tribunals and human rights groups. By using a discourse analysis this thesis provides a critical account of understandings of rape that are assumed to be homogeneous, and of how a hegemonic discourse is emerging. In this process the sexual is frequently privileged over the violent, with rape referring to (generic) sexual violence against women rather than (specific) violence conducted in a sexual way. This thesis concludes that rape in war can have no unified or extra-discursive meaning and strategically is better understood in international law as a form of torture.« (Source: Thesis)


  Abstract (p. ii)
  Author's Declaration (p. iii)
  Acknowledgements (p. iv)
  Chapter 1
Overview (p. 1)
    A Discourse Analysis of Rape in War (p. 1)
      Why International Relations? (p. 3)
      Why rape? (p. 6)
      Why International Relations and rape? (p. 9)
    Researching International Relations and rape (p. 12)
      Methodology (p. 14)
      Data (p. 19)
      Concluding remarks (p. 24)
  Chapter 2
Literature Review: International Relations and Rape (p. 26)
    International Relations, feminism and gender (p. 28)
    Rape (p. 39)
      Sexual violence and discursive constructions (p. 50)
      Concluding remarks (p. 54)
  Chapter 3
Literature Review: Discourse Methodology and International Relations (p. 56)
    Foucault, archaeology, genealogy and discourse (p. 57)
    A discourse analysis of rape in war (p. 67)
      International Relations, discourse analysis and constructivism (p. 80)
      Concluding remarks (p. 84)
  Chapter 4
Rwanda: the Defence (p. 88)
    The trial of Akayesu: the Defence (p. 89)
      Physical need and incentive (p. 94)
      Enforced differences and colonial constructions (p. 100)
      Concluding remarks (p. 106)
  Chapter 5
Rwanda: the Prosecution (p. 108)
    The trial of Akayesu: the Prosecution - what is rape? (p. 108)
      Torture, mutilation and (sexual?) violence (p. 113)
      Rape as worse than death (p. 120)
    Changed populations (p. 124)
      Concluding remarks (p. 131)
  Chapter 6
Bosnia: the Defence (p. 133)
    The trial of Kunarac, Kovac and Vukovic: the Defence (p. 136)
      Physical need, love and incredulity (p. 137)
      Enforced differences and ethnic constructions (p. 142)
      Concluding remarks (p. 149)
  Chapter 7
Bosnia: the Prosecution (p. 151)
    The trial of Kunarac, Kovac and Vukovic: the Prosecution - what is rape? (p. 152)
      Torture, mutilation and (sexual?) violence (p. 159)
      Rape as worse than death (p. 163)
      Concluding remarks (p. 166)
  Chapter 8
Burma (p. 170)
    Rape, marriage and assimilation (p. 172)
    Punishing ethnic and political difference (p. 179)
    Rape and law (p. 183)
      Concluding remarks (p. 186)
  Chapter 9
Conclusions (p. 189)
    Multiple and hegemonic discourses of rape in war (p. 189)
      Constructing rape as a sexual violence (p. 193)
    A strategic re-conceptualisation of rape in war as torture (p. 201)
  Bibliography (p. 207)
    Additional sources (p. 218)

Wikipedia: Genocidal rape: Rape during the Rwandan Genocide, Rwandan Genocide; Wartime sexual violence: Bosnian War, Rape in the Bosnian War, Internal conflict in Myanmar,