In England and Wales today, 11 people are raped every hour. 85,000 women and 12,000 men are affected annually. Another half a million adults are sexually assaulted – not including large numbers of women, men, and children who never report being attacked to the police.
The lecture will explore what we know (and don’t know) about sexual violence from a global perspective. How have people in different periods of history and in a variety of countries understood and responded to assaults? What can be done to reduce, if not eradicate, such violence?
Bourke is a well-known social and cultural historian. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and outgoing Chair of its Modern History Section, as well as holding the Global Innovations Chair at the University Newcastle (Australia). She is the prizewinning author of thirteen books, including histories on modern warfare, medicine and science, psychology and psychiatry, the emotions, pain, what it means to be human, and sexual violence. Her books have been translated into many languages. Her book An Intimate History of Killing won the Wolfson Prize and the Fraenkel Prize. She is a prolific public speaker and is College Orator at Birkbeck, as well as a frequent and award-winning contributor to TV and radio programmes. She was a Visiting Professor of History at Gresham College from 2017-19.
Professor Joanna Bourke said: “I am very excited to become Gresham Professor of Rhetoric because Gresham College’s four centuries of service to London, the UK, and the international community are an inspiration. Like all professors at Gresham College, I strongly believe in the power of education to improve our world. People who attend lectures at Gresham College (or watch them online) are intellectually engaged thinkers: as the next Gresham Professor of Rhetoric, I am thrilled to be able to continue discussing topics of interest with them.
“I chose the theme of my first series of lectures – the body – for its considerable contemporary importance. In my series, I hope to reveal the historically varied ways that people have understood bodies. These variations are often surprising; always intriguing. The changing medical, scientific, moral, economic, and political meanings given to the material body have radical implications for human culture. Understanding these meanings change tell us a great deal about what it means to be human."