CFP_EXTENDED DEADLINE, Workshop on sexual violence in modern southern European history

Dimitra Vassiliadou's picture
Call for Papers
November 27, 2020
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Cultural History / Studies, Modern European History / Studies, Sexuality Studies, Social History / Studies, Women's & Gender History / Studies

EXTENDED DEADLINE for Call for Papers is APRIL 30th

Since the publication in 1975 of Susan Brownmiller’s pioneering Against our Will, historians have continued to challenge biological narratives which espouse the ‘inevitability’ of male sexual aggression. Scholars such as Joanna Bourke and Georges Vigarello have shed light on the historically contingent myths, stereotypes, and assumptions which have shaped societal, legal, and medical attitudes towards the victims and perpetrators of sexual violence at different points in time. In the modern period, medical specialists have played a particularly important role in shaping popular and legal perceptions of the victims and perpetrators of sexual violence. More recently, scholars such as Ngwarsungu Chiwengo have invited us to reflect on the western gaze within public discourse and scholarship on sexual violence, challenging narratives which mask the implication of western actors in sexual violence, at home and abroad. Such scholarship forces us to question the positioning of the western subject in historical narratives of sexual violence, which have hitherto focused on the anglophone western world.

This workshop, co-hosted by the Sexual Harms and Medical Encounters (SHaME) project at Birkbeck College, London, and the Research Centre for the Humanities (Greece) seeks to problematise the western subject through an exploration of sexual violence in the “European south”, broadly defined. Early social anthropologists reported a certain “cultural unity” within the European south and the Mediterranean (Pitt-Rivers, 1963). According to such perspectives, the social values of “honour and shame” in southern Europe were grounded in deeply gendered understandings of family honour, in which men were cast as its holders and protectors, while female honour was more directly linked to sexuality, experienced and expressed as shame. Yet, more recent scholarship has highly criticised this notion of “cultural unity” (Herzfeld, 1980, 1998; Gilmore 1987), highlighting the diverse manifestations of honour and shame within the European south, and stressing the existence of this “culture of honour” in other geographical areas of the world.

Southern European gender models and the implications of these on the study of sexual violence in the western world are relatively under-theorised within broader narratives of the western subject. This workshop seeks to address this lacuna through an exploration of the intersection of southern European culture—understood through the prism of “unity in diversity” (Horden and Purcell 2000)—and sexual violence in the modern period. A thorough comparison of sexual violence within the diverse localities of the European south will allow similarities and differences to emerge, and will help to decentre current emphasis on the English-speaking world within the current historiography on sexual violence.


The event will take place at Birkbeck and will adopt a workshop format. Participants will be invited to submit a 4000-5000-word draft by 31 October 2020, and will present a 15-minute version of this paper on the day of the workshop. In addition, each participant will be paired with another attendee, and will be expected to provide a 5-minute discussion of their partner’s written work during their session. Selected papers will be invited to submit an extended full paper for a peer-reviewed publication or a collective volume.


Proposals are welcome from any area relating to sexual violence, but those focussing on sexual violence in relation to medicine and public health would be particularly welcome. Areas of interest include but are not limited to:

  • The influence of southern European models of masculinity, femininity, and the family on legal, popular, and medical discussions of sexual violence;
  • The role of religion and the Church in shaping attitudes and experiences of sexual violence;
  • The legacies of war, civil war, communism, and fascism on popular, legal, and/or medical discourse and practice linked to sexual violence;
  • The role of psychiatric discourses in shaping public and legal discussions surrounding the victims and perpetrators of sexual violence;
  • The social, medical and/or psychological aftermaths of sexual violence.


Proposals consisting of a 500-word abstract and a one-page CV should be sent to Dimitra Vassiliadou (Research Centre for the Humanities and the Hellenic Open University,                and                 Stephanie   Wright (Birkbeck, by 30 April 2020. Participants will be notified of the outcome of their submissions soon after that date. Some funding will be available for those travelling to the workshop from abroad and areas outside of London – please let the organisers know via email if you wish to be considered for this.

Contact Info: 

Dimitra Vassiliadou (Research Centre for the Humanities and the Hellenic Open University,                and                 Stephanie   Wright (Birkbeck,