Politics of Sexual Violence Initiative

Housed at the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership, the initiative draws on in-depth research on the intersections of gender and violence for marginalized women around the world to inform activist organizing, policy debates, and art. The PSVI has been fortunate to collaborate with the African American Policy Forum, Apne Aap International, and VDay to extend the impact and depth of our, collective, work for women and girls.  We are generously supported by the Novo Foundation.

One, central, project of the initiative in 2017 is Beyond Identity: A Gendered-Platform for Scholar Activists:

The Politics of Sexual Violence Initiative, The Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Engagement, and The President’s Office will collaborate on this new campus-wide initiative. The program will train young women of color from both immigrant and U.S.-based minority communities in identity-driven research, allowing them to draw on lived experiences of discrimination to inform unique research agendas. A central component of the program is the ability to articulate lived experiences, and disseminate findings and opinions. Sustained, intensive writing courses will push each student to craft nonfiction narratives into compelling forms of political communication. Without the personal in the political, the stories of these young women remain footnotes in the often exploitative narrative that captures their lives. Nonfiction writing will clarify identity-driven research projects to locate insights missing in contemporary policy conversations.

Where most research remains divided into “western” analyses and “local” knowledge, with a constant demand from policymakers for “more” data, we suggest that who does the research is critical for producing relevant insights on radicalization, identity, violence, and protest.  The questions, themselves, are re-framed, with no distinction between ‘home’ and ‘abroad’ for communities of women for whom elements of home exist in multiple spaces. Policy presentations in New York and DC will bring to life emerging areas for research.

While many of these young women’s experiences are likely to feature gender and violence, issue-based political work will be determined by individual women and will most likely touch on everything from conflict (over 1,000 students at City College are from conflict “hotspots”) to the contemporary immigration crisis, with a strong grounding in individual understandings of intersections between gender and violence.

Amongst this subset of younger women, research agendas emerge when personal experiences and cultural knowledge from countries in conflict intersect with activist struggles in the United States and broader academic debates.  This initiative aims to draw on identity-driven analyses that link the lived experiences of immigrant communities with broader political movements, settled more firmly in American soil.

A feature on Beyond Identity, was done in the Chronicle of Higher Education, read it here: CHRONICLE ARTICLE.


Vice News: Women in/at War Short documentaries exploring the complexities of women’s politics. First segment, on Sri Lanka, to be released in 2017.

Collaborative Film Project:  The Aleppo Project” Robert Templer, Politics of Sexual Violence Initiative, & Lucien Castaing-TaylorVerena Paravel. Long-form multi-site documentary project exploring the lives and politics of women in and around Syria. (2017-2019)


The Female Fighter Series: Guernica Magazine This series, developed and curated by Dr. Gowrinathan, pairs women novelists with female fighters in Colombia, Nepal, Nigeria, and the United States to explore the lived experiences of female militants, and reveal distinctive political identities. (December 2016). This project is generously supported by Eve Ensler and VDay.

Book Project: Radicalizing Her. This book explores the role of rage in women’s politics. (Forthcoming).


Senior Research Scholar: Political Conflict, Gender, and People’s Rights Project,  Legacies of Conflict in South Asia Archive Project, University of California, Berkeley.

Visiting Professor: Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.


Missing Peace Scholar: United States Institute of Peace

Research Solutions to Violent Extremism: RESOLVE Research Network