New Rape Studies: Humanistic Interventions (SUNY Press)

deadline for submissions: 
December 1, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
New Rape Studies edited volume
contact email: 

Co-editors Michael Dango, Erin Spampinato, and Doreen Thierauf invite original chapter-length contributions for a volume on New Rape Studies: Humanistic Interventions, under contract with SUNY Press. Final chapters are due February 1, 2023, and should be no longer than 8,000 words, inclusive of Chicago-style footnotes. We strongly encourage interested contributors to be in touch with abstracts by December 1, 2002, to ensure a fit before submissions of full drafts. We are committed to boosting the voices of graduate student, early career, and contingently employed writers. All queries can be sent to Michael Dango at

New Rape Studies book brings together new writing by scholars of art, literature, film, and media who collectively provide a vision for reinvigorating humanistic contributions to the movement against sexual violence, a movement otherwise monopolized by legal and public health paradigms in the Anglo-American context. These humanistic insights transform the categories and keywords of sexual violence analysis, providing a more transnational approach and internationalist forms of solidarity; a focus on linking different forms of harm under a common understanding of social structure; and a method aimed less at adjudicating whether events have happened in the past and more at preventing their re-appearance in the future. 

 The volume is divided into three sections. Please indicate which section you think is a best fit for your essay when getting in touch. 


1. Transnational Cultures, Transhistorical Critique 

One consequence of the dominance of legal and public health paradigms for discussing sexual violence is a typically nationalist frame of reference, for instance tracking the Anglo-American afterlives of English 17th-century Lord Chief Justice Matthew Hale’s claim that rape was a charge “easily to be made and hard to be proved”; or detailing the risk and prevention factors for sexual violence within a national population, such as in the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. A return to taking seriously “rape culture” as a proper focus of feminist work against rape opens up a more transnational circulation of images, ideologies, and resonances, in turn also fostering what Verónica Gago has been the most thorough in theorizing as The Feminist International (2020), that is, a solidaristic network of feminists across national and cultural borders. 

Resonating with a call made in a different context for a “strategic presentism” (V21 Collective Manifesto), contributors in this section also consider the past not for its radical alterity but for its radical continuities with the present, reviving while still shifting an earlier feminist impulse to theorize transhistorically (whether in Susan Brownmiller’s claim in Against Our Will that the function of rape had not changed “from prehistoric times to the present” or Catharine MacKinnon’s claim that sexuality has no history, because it is always about domination). A historical frame of reference helps us to better understand our present, as well as how to change it.


2. Capacious Categories: Theorizing Definitions

A central radical feminist intervention in the public imaginary of sexual violence—independent of how sexual violence ended up being codified or defined in the law or public health studies—was expanding the category of “rape” to include previously occluded harms, especially acquaintance and intimate partner rape. Contributors in this section return to the re-politicization of rape as what Eric Reitan, building on the work of Walter Bryce Gallie, calls an “essentially contested category” in order to theorize how different kinds of events are related in a commonly gendered structure of transnational, colonial, and racial capitalist harm.


3. From Representation to Its Aftermath

Influential cultural studies of sexual violence representations—including Cathy Caruth’s Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History (1996), Susan Brison’s Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of a Self (2002), and Shoshana Felman’s The Juridical Unconscious: Trials and Traumas in the Twentieth Century (2002)—have foregrounded the experience of trauma and its resistance to narrative. In this section, contributors explore what is at stake in a more recent explosion of genres for representing sexual violence, including feminist reclamations and re-workings of the “rape joke” and the “procedural.” If genres are what Lauren Berlant calls “affective contracts,” then changes in genre quickly pick up on a shifting cultural consensus in how people feel about rape and what they feel they should do about it. 

Both legal and public health paradigms begin with accounting of rape events, either adjudicating whether an event does or does not rise to the legal definition of rape or counting the distrubution of rape events within a population under study. An emphasis on culture better accounts for how each instance of rape is over-determined by social, political, economic, and institutional structures much grander than interpersonal dynamics. Implicit in an emphasis on structure over event is also an abolitionist politics that seeks to transform society at scale rather than through the incrementalist jailing of bad individuals.