Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 71, Issue 5, pp 541–580 | Cite as

Politics of mass rapes in ethnic conflict: a morphodynamics of raw madness and cooked evil

  • Albert DojaEmail author


To explain war rapes in former Yugoslavia, the work of cultural ideology is never complete, but an unstable relation between cultural activism and cultural norms and practices provides the point of departure to move beyond the stereotyped accounts of mass rapes and develop a neo-structural model of canonical formalization based on discourse analysis and transformational morphodynamics. Methodologically, the new model takes lead from the abstract mathematical operations and canonical transformations suggested by Lévi-Strauss for the structural study of myth. The assumption is that mass rapes are fueled by a specific cultural activism that activates a cultural ideology that makes mass rapes effective in a military strategy of ethnic cleansing.



Interest on this topic started almost twenty years ago when war mass rapes were still waged in Kosovo. Different aspects were presented in several research seminars and conferences. Aspects of the critical review of literature on mass rapes over the 1990s were presented in the Stoetzel Seminars on Social Anthropology and Psychology in Paris Sorbonne (2000). Aspects of the boundary condition in social and anthropological theory were presented in the Centre for Border Studies at the University of Glamorgan/South Wales U.K. (2003), in the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Philadelphia PA (2009), and in the Visiting Scholars Seminar at Harvard University (2017). Several aspects of the morphodynamics approach to mass rapes were presented in the Medical Anthropology Seminar at the University College London (2004), in the Annual Conference of the Anthropological Association of Ireland at the University of Limerick (2004), in the Conference on War and Sexual Violence at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (2016), and in the Interdisciplinary Forum on Rape Cultures and Survivors in Santa Barbara CA (2018). I am thankful to Katherine Verdery, Roland Littlewood, Sarah Danielson, Tuba Inal, Merril Smith, Marie-Louise Pellegrin, and to the organizers and all other participants for their comments and discussions. A special thanks also to Nita Luci, Ruth Seifert and Zarana Papic for their help with many useful materials on mass rapes at the beginning of this work and to the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments at the final stage.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LilleLilleFrance

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