Wednesday, October 5, 2011
A Matter of Words
Sometimes it just comes down to this: words. And how we make them matter.
May I introduce you to a big part of my life: theory. I am working with Barry Buzan’s Securitization Theory in my dissertation. This theory broadened in the 1990s International Security Studies and removed the up until then Security Studies’ narrow/stale focus on the nuclear Cold War deterrence/realism point of view to other security issues such as terrorism, cyberspace, environment, health and gender. He argued in 1998 with Security – A New Framework for Analysis, for example, that securitization takes place once a referent object (e.g. rape during war) is being transformed from a political issue into a threat. The securitizing agent (states, the UN) says “someone cannot be dealt with in the normal way.” Once you securitize something (speak the word “security”), actors (states or/and international institutions) recognize the urgency and crisis mode and, hence, begin to abandon prior values, assumptions and norms (procedures, rules) and deploy extraordinary measures (UN resolutions and International Law/convictions of war criminals for the act of rape during war). So, the securitization of rape is elevating the act of rape from a natural / common / opportunistic” occurrence or assumed by-product of war into a security threat. By doing so, it also de-genderizes rape, removes women as “depoliticized” entities and re-establishes them as “active agents” (Buzan 247). I am exploring whether or not rape was successfully securitized after the conflicts in Bosnia and Rwanda. I’ll argue yes. And no. Both conflicts serve as watershed moments that caused the (slow but gradual) recognition of rape as a systematic tool of war. But the question remains ”what does it matter”? I’ll argue that securitization of rape remains limited, unsatisfying, artificial, at best. Why? Is rape as a subject matter too abstract/different from cyber war, global warming etc. to be recognized as a security issue? What is it about mass rapes during conflict (e.g. currently in the DRC) that numbs our consciousness? What is it about rape that makes us look the other way?