Women’s Bodies and War: Bonhoeffer on Self-Assertion

  • Dianne Rayson
Part of the Religion and Radicalism book series (RERA)


Dianne Rayson begins this chapter at Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s place of execution—a courtyard inside Flossenbürg Concentration Camp in Bavaria—which was situated directly in front of the camp’s brothel. Female prisoners were transferred into Flossenbürg from other nearby camps for the ultimate humiliation of sexual slavery prior to the final violence of their extermination. The physical proximity of this systematized rape and murder is a graphic reminder that the root contributors to both, according to Bonhoeffer, is humanity’s attempt to assert itself over against the “Other.” In an early lecture, “The Right to Self-Assertion,” Bonhoeffer interrogates how power subverts relationships resulting in domination of the “Other” (including women) and ultimately in war. Rayson examines this neglected piece of writing by Bonhoeffer in light of the problem of rape culture, and considers how the theological conditions for such a cultural injustice were articulated by Bonhoeffer from within his own context of rising Nazism in 1930s Germany. Consistent with the corpus of Bonhoeffer’s theological works, she considers how notions of sociality and responsibility are key components of a “fully human” response to injustice.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dianne Rayson
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.University of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia
  2. 2.BBI – The Australian Institute of Theological EducationPennant HillsAustralia
  3. 3.Centre for Research in Religion and Social Policy (RASP)KewAustralia

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