University of Leicester
2021Almisnad Almohannadi A PHD.pdf (20.64 MB)

Museum Silences on Wartime Rape: The Case of the Imperial War Museum

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posted on 2021-11-26, 13:35 authored by Aisha Almisnad Almohannadi
Violence against women in wartime has been documented since Antiquity and remains a constant in armed conflict around the world. Women are the most targeted civilian group and sexual violence is seen as a consistent means to annihilate enemies in conflict. While this topic has been widely researched in law, history and feminist studies, it is understudied within the field of museum studies and virtually invisible in museums. The question remains: what is the attitude of war museums towards the long history of violence against women in wartime? The aim of this thesis is to investigate museum silences on the topic of wartime rape against women, with a particular focus on war museums. Drawing on recent museum studies work on human rights this thesis argues that war museums, in particular national war museums, have a moral responsibility to engage with this topic to openly discuss and present the atrocities committed against women, especially when wartime rape is considered a crime against humanity by the United Nations.
The case study for this thesis is the Imperial War Museum in London (UK), which covers the history of war from the First World War to the present day. This research uses a qualitative approach to provide a comprehensive understanding of the complex issue of violence against women in conflict zones. Methodologies concerning the investigation of silence in museum contexts have not been widely explored. This research offers a new methodological approach to researching silence, and which factors contribute to it. It brings together visual analysis of the main exhibition spaces and documentary analysis of the archives of past temporary exhibitions to provide the first in-depth investigation of wartime rape in a war museum. The original contribution of this thesis lies both in its in-depth study of museum silences and a novel methodological approach, encouraging museums to reconsider their representation of wartime rape against women. In particular, the role of art as an interpretive strategy is highlighted as a potential approach to engaging with these issues.



Nuala Morse; Viv Golding

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Museum Studies

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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