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The Page 99 Test

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Ford Madox Ford once wrote: “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.” Apparently there is an entire blog based on testing this concept as a way of introducing literature.

The Page 99 Test blog has an excerpt from pg 99 of my new book Forgetting Children Born of War on their site today, with some commentary I wrote up for them. Turns out it works reasonably well for my book, with a few qualifications.

Page 99 of my book Forgetting Children Born of War doesn’t exactly capture the argument of the book – but then again it isn’t a full page, as it’s the start of the introduction to Chapter 6:

“I arrived on the doorstep of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on July 3, 2007, five years and two days after the court came into force, on the first day of the month after the sixtieth day after the sixtieth government ratified it. My hope was to interview someone from the prosecutor’s office about the likelihood of including indictments for forced pregnancy into any charges leveled against members of the Khartoum regime, said to be behind campaigns of extermination and genocidal rape in the Darfur region of the Sudan. Stories of women and girls forcibly impregnated with “Janjaweed babies,” some of whom were reportedly killed or stigmatized in the refugee camps of western Darfur and Chad, had helped galvanize international attention to the humanitarian crisis in the region and small waves of interest in the vulnerabilities of the babies by aid organizations. The subsequent investigation into atrocities in Darfur was an early opportunity for the court to leverage new language regarding gender crimes. I was curious about the extent to which this was happening and about whether by 2007 the consciousness of ICC prosecutors about the crime of forced pregnancy had come to include concern for the babies born as a result.

Judging by how difficult it was to get an interview with anyone from the ICC once I explained the topic of my book to a public relations officer, it seemed unlikely that such concerns were on the radar screens of the international civil servants staffing the new court…”

Since each chapter begins with an anecdote from my field research into why the human rights community has paid so little attention to children born to war rape survivors, the page is written more in narrative from rather than the analytical style prevalent in the book. At the same time it does give you a clear sense of the human rights problem whose neglect I’m studying – stigma and mistreatment of children born of war rape. Although the example given on the page is about Darfur, compared to most of the book which focuses on Bosnia, the issue – and its neglect by the human rights community – are truly global phenomena. The page also gives a sense of what my fieldwork was like – poking around various sites in the human rights network, in this case the international criminal tribunals based in the Hague – in search of information on how these children’s rights might fit on the agenda, and how instead they fell through the cracks in the process of constructing rape against women as a war crime and “children in armed conflict” as a vulnerable category.

The rest here.

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