The seminar is canceled! Guest lecture: Sexual violence and the limits of "empowerment" in South Sudan
The seminar is canceled due to sickness.
Anthropologist Dr. Carol Berger will give a guest lecture on sexualised violence in South Sudan and review the strategies of western humanitarian interventions to prevent such gender-based violence.
Young Dinka women from a cattle camp in Lakes State, South Sudan. The woman on the far right wears a string of bells around her waist, indicating that her family is accepting offers of marriage. She will be exchanged for cattle, which will be paid to the men of her family. Photo: Carol Berger.
Sexualised violence has become part of the systemic debasement of perceived enemies in many parts of South Sudan. The current civil war, which began in December 2013, has divided the population along ethnic lines: specifically, Dinka and Nuer peoples. The rape and mutilation of civilians, both female and male, has become a norm among militarised forces.
In this presentation, Carol Berger will address the use of sexualised violence and review the strategy of western humanitarian interventions aimed at preventing gender-based violence. She argues that these interventions may, in fact, be exacerbating the situation.
The humanitarian narrative focuses on “empowering” women and girls. Dominant cultures within South Sudan, however, see their female members as communal property. Because of this worldview, the rape of women and girls is a means of exacting revenge against entire communities. The assaults and grievous acts express the intent of the attackers to a) emasculate males from the targeted communities, b) lower the asset value of women within their communities, as raped women will command a lower number of cattle upon marriage, and c) destroy the ability of women from these communities to reproduce.
About Dr Carol Berger
Dr Carol Berger is an anthropologist and writer. She completed her doctorate, on militarisation and social process among Nilotic-speaking peoples, at Oxford University in 2010. A longtime resident of Cairo, Egypt, she spends half of each year in South Sudan, where she is a researcher for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, London Review of Books, The Guardian and The Economist. She is the editor of The Rumbek Review: The Legend of Cuei Guak and Other Stories (Kampala: Fountain Publishers, 2010) and Jieng on the Moon (forthcoming).