‘A river under the earth’
: The silencing of conflict-related sexual violence survivors in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo

  • Emily Mitchell-Bajic

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research investigates the social mechanisms which contribute to the silencing of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) survivors in the post-conflict, post-Yugoslav region with a focus on the case studies of Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH), Croatia and Kosovo. This involves an assessment of what these silencing mechanisms are and how they manifest to impact CRSV survivors in their everyday lives. In this investigation, the apparatuses that a visible minority of survivors mobilise to publicly give voice to their lived experiences are also identified and critically analysed. With the objective of addressing silencing as a series of micro-mechanisms of broader mobilisations of power, this research addresses a gap in existing literature by focalising conceptualisations of silencing in a context-specific frame. This research pairs a critical discourse analysis of both documents relating to sexual violence-related cases handled by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) during its time of operation and documents circulated by prominent regional non-government organisations, with a thematic analysis of interviews conducted with expert practitioners in the field. Engaging with concepts of gender-based discrimination, intersectionality, stigma, and the role of temporality in shaping and reshaping these issues, this research offers a renewed contribution to the existing body of literature on CRSV’s legacy in post-Yugoslavia by framing silencing as an ongoing mobilisation of power which implicates a series of impacts for survivors in their post-conflict lives.

Thesis embargoed until 31 July 2025.
Date of AwardJul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorUlrike M Vieten (Supervisor) & Cathal McManus (Supervisor)


  • Conflict-related sexual violence
  • silencing
  • giving voice
  • Post-Yugoslavia

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