ABSTRACT

In June 2015, the Kosovo-born artist Alketa Xhafa-Mripa created a unique exhibition inside the city stadium in Priština. Her aim was to draw attention to the thousands of women who suffered rape and sexual violence during the war in Kosovo at the end of the 1990s. In her words, ‘I started questioning the silence, how we could not hear their voices during and after the war and thought about how to portray the women in contemporary art’. 1 The exhibition consisted of 5,000 dresses hung on a latticework of washing lines. Freshly washed and clean, the dresses symbolically conveyed the powerful message that survivors of rape and sexual violence in Kosovo are similarly unsoiled and unstained. Aptly named ‘Thinking of You’, Xhafa-Mripa’s exhibition drew attention to these survivors and created a space for visitors to think about them. This added to its uniqueness. How often do we think about survivors of war rape and sexual violence many years on? How much thought do we give to where they are now and how they live their lives? Notwithstanding the wealth of existing scholarship on conflict-related rape and sexual violence, little attention has been given to the long-term effects of these crimes. This book’s key aim was specifically to address this gap through the adoption of a longue durée perspective. More than 20 years after the Bosnian war ended, it has empirically explored a pivotal ‘life-trauma dialectic’, 2 by looking at how the trauma of rape and sexual violence continues to affect and shape the lives of survivors today.