Sexual Violence in Historical Context

AHA Session 219
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Virginia Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level)
Kathryn Tomasek, Wheaton College, Massachusetts
Sexual Coercion, Religion, and Slavery in Later Medieval Europe
Elizabeth Casteen, Binghamton University, State University of New York
The (In)Visibility of Sexual Violence in the Archives of Slavery
Stephanie Jones-Rogers, University of California, Berkeley
The Politics of Rape in Colonial South Africa
Elizabeth Thornberry, Johns Hopkins University

Session Abstract

In early October 2016, the Washington Post obtained a video recording in which presidential candidate Donald Trump “bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping, and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation” with Access Hollywood host Billy Bush. The recording was one of a number of provocations that led to the organization of a Women’s March on Washington the day after the candidate, who won the majority of votes in the Electoral College, was inaugurated as the 45thpresident of the United States. And responses were not limited to the march. In early November, Catherine Clinton devoted the final section of her presidential address at the Southern Historical Association to rape and sexual harassment. Thus, this seems a particularly appropriate moment for a session in which three early-career historians present their work on sexual violence in historical context.

The session has been deliberately organized to include presentations from historians working on projects widely dispersed in both time and space. Since sexual violence has been a feature of human experiences in most eras and regions, we as historians have a particularly significant perspective to contribute to current public conversations. Our professional lens focuses on how people have understood events, interactions, and power relationships in their particular contexts of place and time. And so this panel features new research examining treatment of enslaved Muslim women in late medieval southern Europe, the archives of slavery in North America, and colonial era precursors of the intersections of sexual consent or its absence and political power in contemporary South Africa.

(Quotation from David A. Farenthold, “Trump Recorded Having Extremely Lewd Conversation about Women in 2005,” Washington Post, October 8, 2016,, accessed February 15, 2018.)

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