Gender Violence, Gender Security, Culture and Law in Liberia and Rwanda: A Framework for Historical and Anthropological Research and Analysis

Posted On April 26, 2016
Categories Featured Research

PI and Contact Person: Jennie E. Burnet (
Co-PI: Sharon Abramowitz, Department of Anthropology, University of Florida

This project studies the persistent and widespread problem of gender-based violence through comparative study of two post-conflict African countries, Liberia and Rwanda. This project integrates the study of conflict and post‐conflict related gender-based violence with the study of patterns of gender violence and gender security that predate conflict. The research departs from the assumption that gender-based violence, like other forms of violence, is subject to rules governing the use of violence particular to each society, and that these rules condition the kinds of gender-based violence that become prevalent during conflict, and that render many interventions to mitigate gender-based violence ineffective. The central question is: what are the basic social configurations of customary and formal law, social institutions, kinship, social relations, and political economy that pattern the expression of gender-based violence?

Post-conflict societies in Africa have been selected for investigation because they feature changing social and legal norms surrounding the use of violence, the presence of public collective deliberations over the legitimate and illegitimate uses of violence, and rapid social changes with regard to gender roles. Moreover, these cases leverage the theoretical and geographic expertise of co-PIs Burnet and Abramowitz. The main objectives include (1) identification of patterns of gendered violence and gendered security from the pre-colonial period to the present, (2) investigation of the ways that social change impacts patterns of gendered violence and gender security, (3) examination of the ways GBV patterns during and after conflict are integrated with or distinct from pre‐conflict social configurations. This project will achieve these objectives by collecting archival materials, conducting new ethnographic research, and drawing on the growing legal and ethnographic digital archive currently in development through the Conjugal Slavery in War Research Network in Canada.