2023 Livingstone Undergraduate Research Award in the Social Sciences

Livingstone Undergraduate Research Award in the Social Sciences

Livingstone Undergraduate Research Award in the Social Sciences

Brianna Kline-Costa

Brianna 1

The ICC and Restorative Justice: Community Reparations for Victim-Survivors of Sexual Violence

View Brianna’s project online

in TUScholarShare, Temple University’s institutional repository

My project was essentially an attempt to connect a thread between two very different bodies of literature: changing theories of wartime sexual violence and the evolution of international jurisprudence across different international bodies of law. Ultimately, I argue that the shift in literature to a focus on the ability of sexual violence to destroy the social fabric of a community implies an emphasis on the restoration of community in the justice process with specific attention to the reintegration of victim-survivors.   

What is your major and expected year of graduation?

I am a political science major with a global security studies minor, and I will graduate in a month, in May of 2023! 

What inspired you to pursue your project? 

Before my capstone, I completed a research grant through CARAS studying the symbolism of performative sexual violence in the Guatemalan Civil War. While undergoing this project, I came across this survivor testimony: “I think the counterinsurgency policy was very detailed, thought-out, and calculated in the case of women. Because women definitely are a symbol, the symbol of life, of the perpetuation of life. In other words, to kill a woman is to kill life.” This quote sparked my interest in analyzing why combatants may choose to incorporate violence against women in their military strategy and what implications this may have for the avenues through which we attempt to pursue justice in the aftermath of conflict.   

What does winning this award mean to you?  

It still feels incredibly surreal. Only 21 percent of international relations scholars are women, and I think this disparity has led to the oversight of women’s experiences in conflict for much of the history of the discipline, but this has begun to change in the past few decades. To have my work recognized, to me, reaffirms the importance of women’s voices in the field. I also intend to expand on this work in graduate school, so being the recipient of such a competitive award reassures me that I have the research skills to take on a graduate-level dissertation. 

How did the Libraries support your research?

I could have never undertaken this project without the resources made available to me by Temple Libraries. Temple Libraries granted me access to databases such as Sage Journals and JSTOR, from which I pulled hundreds of articles. I also drew from local news articles found in the Nexis Uni database accessed through Temple Libraries, and survivor testimonies from different armed conflicts collected and published by local civil and human rights groups available at Charles Library. Access to the Temple University Beasley School of Law Library—in addition to the archives of Charles Library and the extensive online databases—opened the doors to a miscellany of legal theory which proved crucial to my central argument. Attempting a project as interdisciplinary as mine necessitates access to a broad range of journals, collections, and databases, to which I would never have had access without Temple Libraries. 

In a pioneering essay of great originality and exceptional clarity, Brianna Kline-Costa-Chavez documents the progress and limits of international justice for victims of war-time sexual violence. Brianna shows that rape does more than destroy individual lives: it destroys the fabric of local communities. For Brianna, this means that international organizations such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) need to do more. In particular, organizations need to move beyond a narrow focus on prosecuting individual perpetrators and place the focus on the social fabric of local communities. Embracing an interdisciplinary approach that builds on feminist, international relations, and sociological theory, Brianna powerfully argues in favor of a restorative justice model that is focused on rebuilding communities affected by sexual violence. 

Orfeo Fioretos Professor, College of Liberal Arts