Seminar with Robin Schott

The field of philosophy has not been strongly represented in genocide studies, despite the prominence of Hannah Arendt’s work to both Holocaust and genocide studies, though recent work has begun to correct for this imbalance. In this respect, feminist philosophers like their non-feminist colleagues have generally had a low profile in the field of genocide studies. Since genocide targets both sexes, and is not specific to women’s experience, it risks being overlooked by feminist philosophers. Women, however, are also victims of genocidal violence and in some cases are perpetrators of it. Feminist philosophers can contribute to studies of war and genocide by keeping an attentive eye to the role of gender for the victims and perpetrators of genocide, as well as by drawing on decades of reflection on issues of power, domination, violence, vulnerability, and embodiment.

The mass rapes in Bosnia and Rwanda, and the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), have brought new attention to issues of women, war and genocide. One direction of inquiry in the research debates follows the legal judgments that issue from the courts on sexual violence in war-time and considers the adequacy of these judgments in addressing these crimes. A second direction of inquiry seeks to develop philosophical concepts that conceptualize the central harms of sexual violence in war time, and to use these concepts to re-interpret the concept of genocide. After a brief overview of the legal debates, I will trace the contributions and limitations of the concept of social death for understanding the genocidal features of war rape, and draw on the work of Hannah Arendt to pose anew the question of the central harm of genocide.

Professor Robin May Schott (1954) holds a PhD in Philosophy from Yale University and a BA from Swarthmore College. She is Senior Researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies(DIIS) and was Professor at Arhus University from 2009 to 2011. She has been a visiting scholar at many international institutions and universities.

Among her publications are the books “Birth, Death and Femininity” (2010), “Feminist Philosophy and the Problem of Evil”(2007), “Discovering Feminist Philosophy”(2002). She has published widely in international journals and edited volumes. Her present research focuses on philosophical and juridical aspects of gender based violence.