Definitions of –and responses to– sexual violence have always been mediated by historically and culturally specific conditions. Since 2017, the international reach of the #MeToo movement (first developed by African-American activist Tamara Burke in 2006) has brought new attention to the widespread sexual harassment and assault of women, children, and men. Conversely, however, the successes of this movement have also been met by what have often been overtly misogynistic denials that such a continuum of sexual violence is a widespread and disturbingly ‘normalised’ part of many women’s life experiences. Critiques of #MeToo argue that this awareness feeds into a pious and intolerant ‘cancel culture’ or mob mentality that unfairly targets ‘innocent’ people, primarily men.
In many societies and over substantial periods of time, sexual violence has also routinely been dismissed as of serious concern; and discussions (whether medical, legal, political, or cultural) of the topic have explicitly blamed and stigmatised the victims of such attacks, rather than condemning the perpetrators or seeking justice. For example, the British physician Alfred Swaine Taylor assured readers of his influential textbook on forensic medicine in 1865 that false allegations of rape were often ‘wilfully and designedly made’ –a statement that had little to do with any evidence of such false accusations coming before the courts, and everything to do with the myths surrounding sexual violence in Victorian England. Similarly, the Brazilian medical examiner and psychiatrist Raimundo Nina Rodrigues claimed in the early twentieth century that the bodies of Black and mixed-race women and girls were more likely to be ‘mistaken’ by the unwary physician as being victims of sexual violence. As the anthropologist and sociologist Mariza Corrêa has pointed out recently, Rodrigues’s claims helped establish him as an international authority in criminal justice matters and meant that Black victims of sexual assault faced even greater challenges in seeking redress through the Brazilian courts.
Both the cases of Taylor and Rodrigues also demonstrate the constant concern with claiming the (female) body as a site of objective and neutral ‘truth’ that could easily prove or disprove allegations of sexual violence, despite the fact such interpretations were marked by racial, gender, and class prejudice both in practice and in discourse. Particular contexts, such as war, or institutions such as slavery or imperialism, have also intersected with such ideas and have frequently been used by perpetrators to excuse sexual violence against subjugated peoples or enslaved women and men. The impact and legacy of this stigmatisation and erasure of sexual violence have also often required historians to read archival sources against the grain or to listen carefully for what remains unsaid in oral history testimony and interviews.
In short, the study of sexual violence necessitates bearing in mind the intersecting realities, actors, discourses, practices, prejudices, and contradictions that, in different historical and geographical contexts, have aided to promote it and, at the same time, normalised it or even condemned it. The ways that sexual violence has been understood, accepted, tolerated, contested, or rejected by perpetrators, victims, or commentators has also depended on specific cultural frameworks. Reading the –often scarce or implicit– evidence, (textual, verbal, corporeal, or visual) of sexual violence and the responses to it has frequently posited a challenge for historians, who have needed to refine their methodological and theoretical tools to address and study this phenomenon.
We are interested in receiving articles that deal with the histories of sexual violence in any region of the world and from any historical period that might explore (but are not limited to) the following themes:
- Sexual violence in colonial and imperial contexts
- Sexual violence during war and conflict
- Sexual violence and migration (including forced migration)
- Archives and testimonies of sexual violence
- Medical and legal understandings of sexual violence
- Sexual violence and reproduction
- Histories of child sexual abuse
- Sexual violence and enslavement
- Sexual violence against indigenous peoples
- Sexual violence and the ‘everyday’
- Sexual violence against LGQBT+ people
We invite people interested in participating in this special issue to send unpublished articles in Spanish, English or Portuguese. Articles must be in Word and comply with the journal’s standards: a maximum length of 11,000 words including footnotes (18-22 pages approximately), 12 pt Times New Roman font, single-spaced, letter-sized paper with 3 cm margins. Author information should be submitted on a separate file. Footnotes and bibliographic references must be cited using the Chicago Manual of Style.
Important rules on the manuscript submission guidelines can be found at https://revistas.uniandes.edu.co/for-authors/histcrit/editorialpolicy. Non-compliance with the submission guidelines will lead to the rejection of the article.
The articles should be submitted through ScholarOne Manuscripts (the link will be available during the call period at the journal website –Articles / Submission–). Articles sent to Historia Crítica cannot simultaneously be in the process of being evaluated by another publication.
Margarita Sierra, manager editor: firstname.lastname@example.org