Zain Lakhani

Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Fellow in the Humanities

20122013 Forum on Peripheries

Zain Lakhani

Graduate Research Assistant and GHF Chair, 2012–2013


Encounters Known and Strange: Coercion, Violence and the Politics of Defining Rape in America, 1945-1996

My dissertation explores a fundamental shift in the way sexual coercion was understood, from the post World War II period to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). It challenges the idea that sexual violence was discovered" by feminists during the sexual revolution by revealing a longer history of debate over the meaning of coercion itself. Moreover, it argues that feminist attempts to expand the legal definition of "rape" ultimately excluded other forms of coercion from the discourse of sexual violence. Beginning with the academic and popular debates over coercion in the pre-sexual revolution era and ending with American involvement in the first ever rape-as-a-war-crime trials at ICTY, my dissertation traces the consolidation of sexual coercion into sexual violence and the subsequent feminist mobilization of "violence against women" into international human rights forums.


The Forum congratulates Zain on her 2015–16 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship from Harvard's Mahindra Humanities Center! She defended her Penn History dissertation, "Becoming Sexual Subjects: Rape and the Political Meaning of Violence in the Age of Human Rights," in fall 2014, and spent 2014–15 as a postdoctoral fellow in history and human rights at  U Cal Berkeley.