feminists@law, Vol 6, No 1 (2016)

Book Review

Sanja Bahun and V.G. Julie Rajan (eds.) Violence and Gender in the Globalized World: The Intimate and the Extimate. Ashgate: Farnham, 2nd ed, 2015. ISBN 9781472453747. Hardback £70.00.

As awareness about gender-based violence moves from the local to the global, texts which seek to address the interconnectedness of such victimisation are becoming ever more necessary. In the thirteen chapters which comprise Violence and Gender in the Globalised World, the authors and editors address a varied range of gendered harms, causes and outcomes across an international domain. Topics covered include: challenging stereotypes surrounding the trafficking of women in South Korea; the increased racialisation of men involved in trafficking women within the European Union; the role of intersectionality in shaping the violence experienced by indigenous women in Nicaragua and Kenya; women’s involvement with Al Qaeda as online recruiters, propagandists or suicide bombers; so-called Islamic State’s deployment of Syrian and Kurdish women suicide bombers in Iraq; feminism and religious rights in Malaysia; the global rise of the V-Day movement; feminist legal activism in South Africa; the legal recognition of sexual violence in the United States; the gendered dynamics of the Algerian civil war; the impact of the current conflict on Palestinian women; and of past conflicts on women in the former Yugoslavia.  

The volume is divided into four thematic parts: Revealing the Gaps; Enclosures and Exposures; Bordered Subjectivities, Global Connections; and Aesthetic and Gendered Transformations. The introduction outlines several key themes regarding globalised gender and violence which emerge and link the various chapters. These include: gender role construction, sensationalist media reporting, invoking cultural frameworks, and applying an intersectional focus to gendered issues. The contributors to Part One cover a diverse range of gendered issues spanning Nicaragua, Kenya, Malaysia, Iraq, and Syria. Their objective is to identify and address problematic gaps in the current critical cultural and theoretical scholarship pertaining to gender and violence. This is undertaken in a way which, rather than perceiving these omissions as limitations, reconceptualises such gaps as routes for further knowledge production in developing and dynamic areas of inquiry.

The academic author as activist during conflict situations and in post-conflict societies is the key theme linking together the chapters which comprise Part Two. Here, critical analyses are applied to socio-political and legal developments in Palestine, Algeria, the former Yugoslavia and South Africa. The contributors explore critical alternatives to dominant and hegemonic discourses which are traditionally either devoid, or problematically representative, of gendered identities. The focus then shifts to the role of borders in shaping violence against women in Part Three. These borders can be understood as virtual, especially when it comes to the domestic and international positioning of United States’ legislation concerning violence against women; or metaphorical, as illustrated in the discussion of the identity construction of trafficked persons in South Korea and the transgression of gender roles among women who are engaged in radical jihadist ideologies online. They may also be physical of course, as the discussion around trafficking in Eastern Europe demonstrates.

Finally, in Part Four, the contributors draw on artistic practices as alternative means of understanding and challenging patriarchy. The focus on art and aesthetics to tell similar stories from and to international audiences demonstrates the efforts to widen inclusion and participation on a global scale. The experiences of Chihuahua women and girls is addressed from the perspective of listening differently and carefully in a way that is careful not to channel victims' voices through cultural narratives which lessen the severity of the experiences shared. This is followed by a critical analysis of the globalised remit of Eve Ensler’s now-famous global artistic movement against gender violence: V-Day.

Many of the chapters clearly indicate how gendered victimisation and agency needs to be addressed holistically, not separately, in order for meaningful change to occur. For example, the broader approach taken by several authors to addressing violence against women includes advocating from a health (primarily HIV/AIDS) perspective as well as applying a greater focus on gender-based violence as a human security issue. Similarly, the humanistic element of gendered violence is brought to the fore in the discussion about how the physical divides in Palestine impact on family and daily life; something which is less focused upon in media and political narratives.

Each of the chapters in this volume has something to offer, even on topics which are likely to be familiar to those working, teaching, researching or otherwise active in the areas covered. Some of the contributions are based on qualitative research and/or direct interaction with individuals and issues whereas others provide a very comprehensive historical overview or analysis of existing issues pertinent in the gendered violence domain. The collection is incredibly informative, as well as being written in a clear and accessible way for as broad an audience as possible. Whilst some might find fault with a volume on gender being dominated by issues affecting women (thus tending to synonymise ‘gender’ with ‘women’), the various social, legal, political and economic developments needed to address women’s positionality and challenge their historic subjugation within patriarchal systems indicates the importance of focusing on ‘gender’ to effect such change. 

Marian Duggan
University of Kent