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Sexual violence in history: public lecture

19 April 2006

Sexual violence in history: public lecture

The changing form of the rapist in history is the focus of a public lecture to be given at Victoria University of Wellington by an eminent New Zealand historian based in Britain.

Professor Joanna Bourke, of Birkbeck College, University of London, will give a public lecture on Wednesday 26 April, Sexual Violence in Historical Perspective: Writing the Rapist.

In her lecture, Professor Bourke, who is writing a book on rapists in the 19th and 20th centuries, asks "who is the rapist?" and pursues their narratives of violence in a historical perspective.

“Trying to make sense of their extremes of experience is a task fraught with anxiety. There is the risk of either reducing women to mere spectacles of victimisation and contributing to cultural fantasies of female passivity or other side of the coin, solidifying the notion that men are naturally aggressive.

“Nevertheless, the body that traumatises others also assaults our senses. The sexual predator’s body over time has infused every subtle nuance of the society from which it was born. As all forms of violence and domination are highly historical and culturally specific, it is not surprising that the rapist alters form through time.”

Dr Simone Gigliotti, Lecturer in the School of History, Philosophy, Political Science & International Relations, says Professor Bourke is an internationally-recognised and award-winning scholar.

“To have an historian of Professor Bourke’s calibre agree to give a public address is a real coup for the University’s history programme. She is a leader in her field with a wide range of research interests, having published seven books on British and Irish history, gender, the body, and the history of psychological thought and modern warfare. Her books have been translated into six languages and have won several awards.”

More information about Professor Bourke, who was born in New Zealand and studied at the University of Auckland, can be found at:

Media are welcome to attend the lecture on Wednesday 26 April at 6pm in Lecture Theatre 206, Hugh Mackenzie Building, Victoria University, Kelburn Parade.


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