Jesionka Syllabus 2012

Gender and International Conflict: Women in War

Course Instructor: Natalie Jesionka


In the globalized age, women are both perpetrators and victims of war crimes; from the Karen women fighters in Burma to the rape victims in the Congo, women suffer the mostin conflict zones. War and conflict can include traditional forms of war, and day to day struggles within projections of violence. Women are written out of war narratives, if and when they are included, they are the object, not the subject of the story.  Throughout this course we will examine the role of gender, identity and sexuality through the eyes ofwomen in conflict. We will analyze the representation of women in conflict zones, policy initiatives to aid women in war, and the human rights repercussions for women in conflict.


Students will be expected to analyze  the effectiveness of transnational human rights law, United Nations and  non-governmental organizations, and cultural practices used to establish gender constructs within war.


The class will include a number of well known guest lecturers who experienced life as women in conflict first hand.



            Understand  war and conflict on theoretical  and pragmatic level as applied to international policy and treaties such as CEDAW and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights                                                                                                                                                                               

            Differentiate between non-governmental organizations and mainstream media marketing of women in conflict zones.

·               Examine environmental factors that lead women to commit war crimes and rationalize                 crimes against humanity

·               Define and understand gender and identity within conflict zones and the repercussions                 of conflict on women

            Determine and dispel  roots of conflict and stereotypes of women in conflict zones

            Compare global media coverage of high profile conflicts and the portrayal of womenin conflict


(Available on Reserve)

Janis Karpinski- One Women’s Army

Akallo Grace Grall-Girl Soldier

Le Ly Hayslip-When Heaven and Earth Changed Places

Anand and Anita Gopal-War Correspondent based in Afghanistan



20% Participation

20%  Women at War Paper

25% “War Narratives” Presentation

25%  Interview Assignment


Course Schedule






Class Introduction


Film: War Feels like War

Assignment 1-Define War




September 10th

Gender, Identity and Projections of Violence -

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Rules of Engagement

Winning the Ultimate Battle How Humans Could End War


Film: Frontline: Abu Ghirab

Selections from One Woman's Army: Janis Karpinski


Assignment 2- Should the Geneva Convention always apply in war? Does gender matterin the rules of war?




Women in the Crossfire

Congo's Women Plagued by Sex Crimes

Dr Cynthia Maung:

Life on the Thai Burma Border :

Selections from: When Heaven and Earth Changed Places

Film: Lumo: Rape in the Congo


Assignment 3- War impacts women on a global and local level. Describe the unique set of violations that women face in war. Should their be rules regarding the treatment ofwomen in conflict?



Women as Victims and Perpetrators


Video: Former Liberian Rape Victim and Soldier Speaks Out

Tamil Tigers: Suicide Bombing Innovators:

Film: No more tears Sister

Selections from Girl Soldier


Assignment 4- Can women make proper soldiers/fighters? Should they be allowed to fight?






The Human Rights  Repercussions of War

Audio Reading: Pakistan Rape Laws

Afghan Girls Back in the Shadows

Cambodia’s penchant for Gang Rape grows more common:

Buying the freedom of Sex Slaves :



Assignment 5: What role does culture play in war? What role does the Global north playin these conflicts?What institutions/leaders/nations  are  responsible for intervention? Should they have this obligation?



Media Portrayal of War

Film Control Room

The Truth about Jessica :

Saving Private Jessica-

Report: Lynch was Shot and Stabbed in Fierce Struggle,2933,82923,00.html

Film:: Heaven and Earth


Assignment 6: How does the media portray war? Is this an accurate portrayal? What tactics are used to construct the war narrative? How can viewers determine fact from fiction?



October 15th- Small Conflicts

Seniorita Extraviada

Who is Killing the Women of Juarez-

Film: Burma VJ

Assignment 7- Who is responsible for mediating s mall conflicts? Does international  policy matter to a foot-soldier on the ground, or should their be other means of negotiation?




Women Go Missing by the Millions

Selections from A Problem from Hell-Samantha Power : A Crime without a Name

Assignment 8: Rafael Lemkin wanted to ensure that an event like the Holocaust never happened again. Who defines Genocide? Who is held accountable when Genocide occurs?


WEEK 9- Overcoming the Odds

Ushering in Cambodians Peace-

Exposing Afghanistan-

Dirty War- Mothers Remember

Rain in a Dry Land


Heaven and Earth

Film: Regret to Inform

Assignment 9: How do nations and individuals cope with the trauma of War? Should institutions should be put in place to aid in coping?




Niarchos, Catherine N.

Women, War, and Rape: Challenges Facing The International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Human Rights Quarterly - Volume 17, Number 4, November 1995, pp. 649-690


Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice:

Watch: PBS Video: The Reckoning

Assignment 10: Should the United States Join the ICC?


 Week 11-Warfare in the Modern Age

Readings TBA


WEEK 12 - Women War and Peace

WEEK 13 -Presentations



WEEK 14- Presentations and Speakers


Interview Assignment Due on last day of finals




Women in Conflict Assignment- Women fighting battles are often considered taboo inWestern culture can be integral to a national identity and community. The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights outlines a standard of rights that is supposed to be universal for the world, but as we will learn in class, these standards are not always applicable to women in conflict. You are to select a modern conflict (ex: Congo, East Timor, Burma) and analyze how women are depicted in Western culture through images, media and policy. What is the representation of women, are they victims or fighters? What stereotypes or ideologies does this representation enforce about women inconflict? Analyze the cultural framework and lens in which the conflict is seen through, are women heroes, perpetrators, victims, some or all of the above?.


War Narratives Presentation- There are a number of war narratives in popular media and film You will be required to form a presentation based on these narratives. What are women’s role in these films? You will be expected to critically analyze media in your presentation. Why are women written in, or out of the narrative? Who is responsible for constructing the way they are portrayed in War.

The project requires you to utilize visual media such as video, pieces of art, photographs to depict your travel issue and documentation or first hand testimony from people who lived through the conflict the piece of media you choose represents..



You will be required to interview woman who has been on the battlefield and discuss the interview in a paper applying course themes. You are free to interview the subject of your choosing, including any of the guest lecturers in class. Your interview should develop a clear thesis discussing the efficacy of international policy and the role of women in war. What are women’s purpose, principles, and failures on the battlefield and in conflict zones? How can this trajectory be changed?


Presentations: Each week select students will be asked to present on the material