USC Dornsife College Of Letters Arts and Sciences

University of Southern California

Engendering Forced Migration: Victimization, Masculinity, and the Forgotten Voice

Engendering Forced Migration: Victimization, Masculinity, and the Forgotten Voice

This article was published in Surfacing: an Interdisciplinary Journal for Gender in the Global South, 2, no. 1 (2009): 1-17. Surfacing is an international peer-reviewed journal of graduate scholarship that was initiated by graduate students at American University in Cairo under the auspices of the Institute for Gender and Women Studies.

CRCC’s Hebah Farrag discusses the experiences of male survivors and non-combatants in conflict areas such as refugee camps, war zones, and prisons and the need for greater scholarly understanding of these experiences.

Here’s the introduction:

Political violence, armed conflict and aggression, in general terms, are often conceived of as the sole domain of men. This assumption has crept into much of the scholarship today, with many a researcher citing the now famous “statistic”: “war is largely created and fought by men” (Clark and Moser 2001, 3). The identification of aggression and war as male has biased not only the image of men, but women as well, impacting the way researchers, academics and practitioners view violence and conflict, as well as the way they respond to victims of such violence. The simplistic division of gender into roles where men are perpetually the perpetrators and women the victims falsely relates women to peace, and thus passivity, and men to war, and thus aggression (Clark and Moser 2001, 3). This polarized view of conflict and its aftermath creates a worldview where men are never victims and women very rarely anything other than oppressed. It is this misrepresentation of the gendered causes, costs and consequences of violence that has resulted in not only the insufficient recognition of women’s involvement in conflict, as Clark argues, but also the marginalization of the male survivor and/or non-combatant (Clark and Moser 2001, 4).

This gap in research, it may be argued, has led to an ineffective approach when it comes to the treatment of victims of violence in a psycho-social setting. The emphasis on female victimization versus the reality of male silence and non-reporting has left one group, namely, victimized boys and men, without a space for healing, treatment and activism. This paper will explore such gender bias in multiple sites of victimization, focusing on forced migration, while including refugee camps, armed conflict and prisons. This paper will discuss such taboos as female combatants and male-male rape in order to carve out a better map for treatment in the realm of psycho-social interventions, with a focus on refugee studies as an international arena dedicated to understanding and protecting victims of violence and persecution.

Visit the American University of Cairo’s site for Surfacing to see the journal or Click here to download a PDF of the entire issue.


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Hebah Farrag was the assistant director of research of the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture through 2023.