Wars, Violence, and Gender in the Twentieth Century

Publication date 01.05.2023
Dr. Oksana Dudko

The course aims to discuss the major military conflicts of the twentieth century from a gender perspective. In doing so, the course covers the history of global and local wars in a wide variety of regions, including Europe, Africa, and Asia. However, rather than surveying a vast number of military conflicts, we will use a case study approach to conduct in-depth analyses of external and internal dynamics of military encounters and the role of gendered violence during them.

During the course, students discussed primary sources, recent historiographical debates, and multiple methodological approaches related to violence and gender. For this reason, the course is organized both chronologically and thematically. In particular, students discussed World War I; World War II; the Holocaust; terrorism; and wars in Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and Bosnia. Focusing on various forms of violence during twentieth-century wars and military conflicts (i.e., world wars, guerrilla warfare, civil wars, irregular warfare, and genocides), participants investigated the following:

(1) How wars and military conflicts shaped gender identities and roles in different societies; (2) How gendered violence was instrumentalized by governments and the military command during and after military conflicts; and (3) How gendered violence shaped identities and subjectivities of people and societies who committed or experienced violence over the long term.

This seminar-based course was held at the Center for Urban History in November 2018. It was organized for students who are interested in investigating the gender dimension of wars and violence.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will be able to do the following:

  • Critically appraise the opportunities and limitations of the application of a gender approach to the history of wars and military conflicts;
  • Describe key aspects of major military conflicts of the twentieth century;
  • Understand the concepts of war, gender, gendered violence, genocidal violence, sexual
    violence, and trauma;
  • Critically evaluate different types of primary sources and scholarly books from a variety
    of disciplines and different methodological persuasions; and
  • Develop a historical explanation of the relationship between violence and gender based
    on primary and secondary sources

Introduction. Gendering Wars and Violences. World War I: Heroic Masculinities and Fragile Bodies in Industrial Warfare

The introductory class aims to help you navigate the course syllabus; better understand the course aims, assignments, and approaches to the course topics; and engage more deeply with the course materials.

During the second part of the class, we will discuss how societies were mobilized during World War I, experienced warfare, and tried to make sense of their wartime experiences.Furthermore, we will consider the war as a “body” experience, exploring how it physically and mentally affected male bodies.

World War II: Sexual Violence Against Women (the Cases of Japan, Germany, and the USSR)

Gendering the History of the Holocaust

Transition to Peace: Family and Gender Roles after World War II

The Bangladesh War of 1971: Rape and Nation-Building in Post-Colonial Space

Intimate Violence: The Perpetrator’s Perspective on the Rwandan and Bosnian Genocides

Violence as Work: Young Men and Child Soldiers in the Sierra Leone Civil War

Female Terrorists: Roles, Motives, and Media Representations