The stories about how sexual violence comes to be constituted as an object of research offer complex commentaries about the operations of public secrecy in the realm of law, kinship, nation, and the state. Rape emerged as an anthropological object of research when anthropologists compared whole cultures to challenge the universalistic assumptions underlying a natural history of rape. Anthropological focus has now shifted to the situated nature of imagination, language, documents, and techniques that craft the silences and speech around rape. Recent anthropological research critiques the social, juridical, and political discourses complicit in the construction of rape as a public secret, offering an important route of engagement with ethnographies that recursively speak of rape as a situated category.
By Pratiksha Baxi, 2014