Reluctant Intimacies: Sexual Violence and Political Economy on a South African College Campus



Sonia Rupcic, PSTC Postdoctoral Fellow, Brown University

In spite of the popular attention it receives, large gaps remain in research on sexual violence committed by and against college students. There is little consensus on how to define sexual violence with definitions alternately framing the harm of sexual violence as criminal or medical. Drawing on 22 months of ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with 35 students and 7 administrators in South Africa, this talk explores this theme through a discussion of unwanted sex on a college campus in the town of Thohoyandou.

Dr. Rupcic’s scholarship brings together legal and medical anthropology to investigate social categories of harm. Through ethnographic attention to everyday practices of remedy and redress, she explores the intersection of gender, ethnicity and violence. Her current book project, Righting Sexual Wrongs, examines how survivors of sexual violence seek aid and recognition under a racialized system of legal pluralism in post-apartheid South Africa. The project explores how increasingly punitive policies toward sex offenders in post-apartheid South Africa have and have not changed the ways unwanted sex is conceptualized as a category of transgression.

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