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Rape Warfare: The Hidden Genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia Hardcover – February 1, 1996

3.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The systematic rape of Muslim and Croat women as part of the "ethnic cleansing" campaign in the former Yugoslavia is by now common knowledge. Less well known is the military policy of rape for the purpose of genocide currently practiced in Bosnia-Herzogovina by members of the Yugoslav Army and the Bosnian Serb military. The author of this outraged protest asserts that rape is being used increasingly as a weapon of war in the Balkans, combining murderous misogyny with rabid nationalism. Allen explains the twisted logic by which perpetrators consider the act as cancelling the victim's cultural identity. If the victim is impregnated, so the theory goes, the offspring is nothing less than "a little Serb soldier." Allen urgently argues that the U.N.'s International Criminal Tribunal must prosecute the perpetrators of pregnancy-aimed rape as a crime of biological warfare. Her self-consciously feminist book, documenting the mass scale of rapes at some 30 concentration camps, is shockingly effective. Allen is director of the humanities doctoral program at Syracuse University and a prominent advocate of women's rights.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From the Back Cover

In 1992, Beverly Allen learned of the existence of rape/death camps in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia from a former student, a women of Croatian heritage. In these camps, women have been detained and raped repeatedly by Serbian soldiers, whose goal often is to impregnate their victims or to torture them before they are killed. In this highly personal account, Beverly Allen provides a compelling testimony and analysis of the horrifying phenomenon of "a military policy of rape for the purpose of genocide". In Rape Warfare, Allen examines the complexity of identity in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia through the accounts of rape/death camp survivors and those who work to help them. She then presents and analyzes the information she has gathered about genocidal rape, all the while asking, "How can I, an empathizing outsider, communicate what is happening without reinforcing the damage that has already been done?" In a nuanced discussion of the ethics of representing such atrocities, she decides to "forgo storytelling except when the stories I tell are my own". Allen concludes with an impassioned argument for bringing to trial the perpetrators of genocidal rape. By turns personal, polemical, and informative, Rape Warfare is a lucid guide for anyone seeking to make sense of what is happening in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press; 1 edition (February 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816628181
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816628186
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,056,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When I read Rape Warfare for the first time at the height of the conflict in Bosnia I saw it as an important contribution, opening my eyes to the sytematic use of rape as a weapon and informing and inspiring my active involvement in seeking to end the war. After having recently re-read the book, I still view it as an important intervention so I was shocked to see the reader comments posted on Amazon. Both are misguided but the second appears to quickly fall to personal attack rather than a reasoned argument.
The "New York Reader" seems to entirely miss the point of Allen's addition of a conversation with a Bosnian woman on the centrality of the Bogamils to Bosnian culture. The conversation has no pretensions to historical argument; that is precisely why it is related as a conversation rather than as historical fact. By providing a personal rather than an academic account of the Bogomils, Allen shows how important the idea of the Bogomils have become in articulating a Bosnian tradition of ecumenism and multiculturalism. The question of whether or not Bosnian nobles were Bogomils in the 1500s or the scope of their influence misses the point here; what is fascinating about Allen's account is how many Bosnians have appropriated the history of the Bogomils to promote a pluralistic Bosnia.
The second reviewer takes deep offense with Allen for foregrounding her identity, attacking her as self-obsessed. If only more scholarship on the Balkans would show such an awareness of the author's subjectivity. From the plethora of patronizing Western accounts of the war to blatant propaganda designed for domestic consumption - all hid personal and professional interests behind the veil of an "objective" analysis.
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Format: Hardcover
The jacket copy for this book lays out a provocative and difficult task for the writer, a task she has set for herself, "How can I communicate what is happening without reinforcing the damage that has already been done?"

With such an atrocity as its subject, the author makes clear that no perfect answers exist. Yet the attempt to write these stories--even though language can never capture or expurgate the horrors of war and of rape--she knows that silence, silence, silence... is worse. The lenses through which this book examines the issue of rape as an instrument of war, as the author says, "give some form to my thoughts, even though what I am thinking about can never be bound by form, even though what I am thinking about is unthinkable."

If you give even a moment's reflection to the above sentence, you will see that far from a simple listing of terrors, or a journalistic cataloging of facts, the author has set out on an intellectually and morally complex--and perhaps unresolvable--path. It seems that this takes more courage and more risk than mere reportage. As she writes, "It is extremely difficult to write about these things. Every phrase risks misinterpretation..."

Nonetheless, there are facts, and there are stories, stories Ms. Allen has collected herself, even while the genocide continued. And throughout the work, it questions itself. A reader can quickly sense the quick mind and problematizing perspective of a professor of literature. Here is an example, as she discusses a way of writing about the rape camps that she has rejected, "And so the reader may keep turning the pages, caught, in spite of her or his revulsion, in the ... pleasure of linear narrative. Such narrative irrevocably places the reader in the position of the voyeur.
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Format: Hardcover
Rape Warfare was a courageous book to write: Beverly Allen dared to speak out about how rape was being used systematically before `historical consensus' had validated that claim. Thus it became an influential and historically significant work, credited today with having been instrumental in the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal's decision to change international law so that war rape might now be prosecuted as a "crime against humanity." The very first convictions under this new law were handed down in February 2001.
Incidentally, some apparently not up-to-date on recent strides in research approaches, failed to grasp the importance of the inclusion in Rape Warfare of Dr. Allen's personal responses, especially considering the situation on the ground in the Balkans at that time. The information coming from interviews is always shaped by the attitudes and expectations of the interviewer. Thus it becomes the interviewer's duty to both REVEAL and SITUATE the details of her/his own subjectivity.
By withholding the gruesome details of the rapes, Allen protected the women she interviewed; she spared them the kind of re-victimization they experience when journalists pander to public prurience, making pornography of these women's horrors. Nonetheless, or perhaps even, therefore, Rape Warfare is also `about' the power of stories; it makes a significant contribution to demonstrating that narrative, often disqualified as "not objective," is, in fact, a valid tool for discovering the deepest truths.
[Susan Schwartz Senstad is the author of MUSIC FOR THE THIRD EAR (Picador, 2001), which treats the fate of, among others, a Croatian woman who seeks asylum in Norway after being subjected to the mass rapes in Bosnia.]
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