E. Labouvie (Hrsg.): Geschlecht, Gewalt und Gesellschaft

Geschlecht, Gewalt und Gesellschaft. Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf Geschichte und Gegenwart

Labouvie, Eva
Anzahl Seiten
378 S.
€ 39,00
Rezensiert für H-Soz-Kult von
Jane Freeland, School of History, Queen Mary University of London

Since the 1960s, the links between violence and gender have received increasing academic attention. Driven by feminist activism and scholarship, violence, especially physical violence, was initially understood as a key part of women’s oppression. Not only did gender norms and hierarchies shape interpretations of violence and determine what forms of violence were deemed as illegitimate, but gendered ideas also informed understandings of perpetration and victimhood. Violence against women became a central topic for the study of gender and violence, as it tangibly showed how gender roles made women vulnerable to male violence in the private sphere while simultaneously also legitimating this violence as a “normal” part of intimate heterosexual relationships.

As the volume edited by Eva Labouvie shows, research on gender and violence has come a long way since the 1960s. Although gender still – frustratingly – remains on the periphery of studies of violence, the volume shows the rich insights that a gendered analysis of violence can provide. Specifically, it adopts a trans-epochal, trans- and interdisciplinary perspective to historicise violence and its intersections with gender. As the volume clearly shows, violence is not an ahistorical constant, but rather its meanings have evolved over time and in connection with broader social and political transformations. With this historicization, in particular by attending to the ways in which violence has been understood through gendered lenses „will der Band […] den Blick auf Möglichkeiten, Mechanismen und bewusste Strategien der Veränderung sowie ein gesamtgesellschaftliches Umdenken, aber auch auf die Schwachstellen und Anreize lenken, die neuartige Gewaltphänomene ermöglichten und bis heute hervorbringen” (p. 14).

From this starting point, the volume moves thematically through fifteen chapters, beginning with two chapters laying out the state of the field on gender and violence within history (Dagmar Ellerbrock) and the social sciences (Mechthild Bereswill). From there follow four different sections: Körper – Sexualität – Gesellschaft – Familie; Kriege als Gewaltakte – geschlechtsspezifische Gewalt in Kriegen; Systematische und institutionelle geschlechtsspezifische Gewalt; Geschlechtsspezifische Gewalt im Kontext von Ehre und medialen Diskursen.

Despite adopting an interdisciplinary approach, what is so striking about the volume is the way it highlights the convergence of different disciplinary approaches to gender and violence. The contributions of Ellerbrock and Bereswill in particular, show how similar the development and concerns of research into gender and violence are within the disciplines of History and the Social Sciences. Both position the emergence of gender and violence research out of the feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and both query the impact the feminist activist framework had on concretising a gendered binary of women as victims and men as perpetrators of violence. As Ellerbrock argues, historical research (building on the sociological insights of Frigga Haug1) has complicated the gender binary by examining women as perpetrators of violence. As noted in the introduction, this transformation took place most publicly in the early 1990s in the context of research on women under National Socialism. Examining women’s complicity in the violence of the Nazi regime, historians at that time broke with the previously held belief that women were primarily victims of National Socialism and in doing so instigated the „Historikerinnenstreit”, a wide-ranging debate on women’s roles in the Third Reich. More recently, the emergence of masculinity as a framework for thinking about violence has also helped to deepen historical understandings of male perpetration of violence. Bereswill theorises this binary further, drawing attention to the problematic way in which it not only solidifies gender stereotypes, but also simplifies relationships of violence into victims and perpetrators. In doing so, the role of bystanders, enablers and supporters are obscured as are the dynamics of violence itself.

Notwithstanding these enlightening opening insights into the field, they are somewhat unevenly reflected in the volume. While the chapters shed light on the complexity of relationships of violence, and move beyond dichotomies of victim and perpetrator, for the most part the volume centres women as the victims of violence, especially in the historical chapters. There are important reasons for this, however, that speak to the ongoing importance of recovery in women’s and gender history. As Heide Wunder, Eva Marie Lehner and Stefanie Fabian show in their examinations of the late medieval and early modern eras, gender norms and hierarchies have resulted in a source corpus that is largely written by and about men, and in which violence against women is often obscured. While the number of biographical sources written by women may have increased by the twentieth century, as Regina Mühlhäuser powerfully shows it is often the researchers' own discomfort and preconceived notions that have shaped stories of gender violence in war. Specifically, the popular belief that women who have survived rape and sexual violence do not want to speak about their experiences has inhibited their investigation by researchers. It was only following the conflicts and genocides in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s that war rape was urgently brought back into public discourse. Although these chapters do attend to men as victims of violence and provide much needed nuance and complexity in the histories of violence and gender, it is also clear that a politics of recovering women’s experiences is still very much at work in the historical discipline. Given the insights provided by Ines Hohendorf’s chapter, based on her own survey data collected in 2017, that reveal that young men experience intimate partner violence at a similar rate to women, there is not only still much work for historians to do, but also much that historians can learn from working with the social sciences.

Indeed, the volume exposes some of the gaps within the study of the history of violence that could fruitfully be developed in future research. Much of the scholarship on contemporary histories of violence and gender centre on sexual violence in armed conflict. Despite the impressive historical breadth of the volume, the chapters from historians do not extend far into the post-World War II era and the contemporary studies are all written by social scientists. Although research on women and war, especially under National Socialism, has been pivotal to the development of critical scholarship on gender and violence, the findings of the contemporary studies point to the need for historical research to further explore gender and violence beyond the framework of war, armed conflict, and mass violence.

In all, this is an important volume that clearly shows what can be gained from a gender-attentive analysis of violence, and how by analysing gender our understandings of violence, victimhood, and perpetratorship are deepened. It would be advantageous to the field to see this volume translated into English and its scope widened beyond German-language research so that its important findings could find a wider audience.

1 Frigga Haug (ed.), Frauen – Opfer oder Täter? Diskussion, Berlin/West 1981.

Veröffentlicht am
Redaktionell betreut durch