CFP: ‘Do No Harm’: Researching the Pasts, Presents, and Futures of Sexual Violence

SHaME and the South Africa’s Hidden War project are pleased to present a Call for Papers for our upcoming conference, ‘Do No Harm’: Researching the Pasts, Presents, and Futures of Sexual Violence, taking place 8-10 February 2023 at Birkbeck, University of London.

‘Do No Harm’: Researching the Pasts, Presents, and Futures of Sexual Violence

Birkbeck, University of London
8-10 February 2023

The SHaME Project and University of Exeter’s South Africa’s Hidden War project are thrilled to share a Call for Papers for the upcoming ‘Do No Harm’: Researching the Pasts, Presents, and Futures of Sexual Violence conference, taking place 8-10 February 2023 at Birkbeck, University of London.

In the last twenty years, we have witnessed protests and acts of resistance against sexual violence in its many forms around the world. #MeToo is only the latest articulation of anger against a contested and highly politicised form of violence that continues to be an omnipresent threat to women and children. While substantial legal and social gains have been made in some parts of the world over the past five decades, the violence continues. Harmful rape myths and stereotypes, often racialized, endure and shape who society sees as victims and perpetrators. The legal, medical, and criminal justice systems repeatedly fail victims and survivors. Violence prevention programmes continually place the onus on women and children to monitor their own behaviour. Those whose identities are marginalised or ‘othered’ such as trans and non-binary people, immigrants, or people with disabilities are targeted for abuse and often failed by services set up to support them.

This conference explores sexual violence from a historical perspective. What can historical research reveal about sexual violence in both the past and present, and how can such research help us to think constructively about the future? How can researchers overcome the significant methodological challenges inherent in such scholarship? How can academics, activists, and practitioners work together in these endeavours? We invite papers from academics in any discipline, as well as from activists and practitioners working in the gender-based violence sector. Papers can focus on any historical period or location, and we particularly welcome papers exploring histories of sexual violence beyond Europe and the Global North. Papers may focus on methodology, ethics, or research findings, but should emphasise how their approach or argument develops current understandings of sexual violence in new ways

Alongside the presentation of papers, the conference will also bring together academics, activists, and practitioners in workshops which facilitate knowledge exchange between sectors and across disciplines. We welcome submissions for academic papers, workshops, or other, innovative approaches and formats of presenting ideas and sharing knowledge.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

– Intersectional identities and histories of sexual violence

– Representations of ‘victims,’ ‘survivors’ or ‘perpetrators’

– Positionality and power dynamics in the research process

– Oral histories and other participatory methodologies

– Working with activists, NGOs, and local communities

– Public engagement and public histories of sexual violence

– Methodological challenges and ethical complexities

– Archival encounters

– Emotions and language

– Voices, silences, and erasure

– Storytelling, memoir, and personal testimonies

– Critiques of legal or medical histories of gender-based violence

– Histories of activism against sexual or gender-based violence

The conference will also form the basis of an edited collection exploring the methodological challenges, ethical dilemmas, and opportunities inherent in researching the histories of sexual violence. Participants will have the option of proposing their papers for inclusion in this publication. We will ask for full papers to be submitted for peer review shortly after the conference.

This conference is jointly funded by UKRI and the Wellcome Trust, and hosted by the South Africa’s Hidden War project at the University of Exeter and the Sexual Encounters and Medical Harms (SHaME) project at Birkbeck, University of London.

Please see the attached CFP for details. Those interested should submit abstracts of no more than 300 words, including the names and affiliations of presenters, an outline of the proposed presentation (300 words max), and whether you will need funding for travel and accommodation. Please send to and by 13 June 2022.



‘Do No Harm’ CFP

SHaME is an interdisciplinary, Wellcome Trust funded project, based at Birkbeck, University of London. Our researchers explore the relationship between sexual violence, medicine, and psychiatry. We study the multiple roles that medical and psychiatric disciplines have played in defining, understanding, adjudicating, and dealing with sexual harms.

South Africa’s Hidden War is a research project exploring the longer histories of sexual violence in South Africa from the 1950s to 2000s, examining conceptualisations of, debates about, and responses to rape and other forms of violence over the apartheid and post-apartheid periods. It aims to develop the first extensive history of sexual violence in twentieth century South Africa and reframe current discussions of sexual violence with a greater understanding of this history and greater emphasis on women’s own voices and narratives. The project is funded by a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship and runs from 2020-2024 with the opportunity to extend until 2027.