The Subject of Wartime Sexual Violence:
: Post-Conflict Recognition in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • Lydia Cole

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Over the past decades, there has been a growing consensus that rape is a weapon of war. Placing issues of gendered violence into international focus, feminists have registered an unease with the way in which the narrative ‘reproduces a limited register through which we can hear, feel, and attend to the voices and suffering of . . . those who are raped’ (Baaz and Stern, 2013, p. 2). Building upon this insight, and tracing its implications in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), I ask after the ways in which the subject of wartime sexual violence is rendered visible, produced, and recognised through post-conflict justice processes in BiH. I begin with an examination of the visibility lent to the subject of wartime sexual violence from the 1990s to the contemporary context, arguing that the dominant subject has been the Muslim-female-victim. Seeking to move beyond this limited register, I examine the multiplicity of subjects that are produced through sites of post-conflict governance in BiH, including sites of legal-bureaucratic recognition, psychological intervention, and witnessing. Examining each site, I engage with the production of the subject of wartime sexual violence, asking which forms of recognition are made possible. I argue that while the subject of wartime sexual violence is often rendered visible through these processes, this does not equate to the subject’s social recognition in any straightforward sense. I conclude with an examination of the conditions of possibility for social recognition in post-conflict BiH. Drawing together feminist methodological approaches with the concept of witnessing, I develop a notion of the feminist researcher as witness, enabling an examination of questions of intersubjectivity as a basis for forms of social recognition. In developing this concept, I make a broader, feminist critique of post-conflict justice practices to the extent that they actively limit the possibilities for social recognition.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorPatrick Finney (Supervisor) & Jenny Edkins (Supervisor)

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