In February 2020, the Centre for Visual Cultures and the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures welcomed Professor Lisa Downing (University of Birmingham) for an exciting lecture entitled ‘(S)extremism: Imagining Violent Women in the 21st Century with Navine G. Khan-Dossos and Julia Kristeva’.
The neologism ‘(s)extremism’ indicates a nexus of ideas intrinsic to the way in which contemporary culture imagines the figure of the violent woman. Firstly, it identifies the sexism visible in reactions to such women; secondly it highlights the fact that these misogynistic responses are often predicated precisely on sex (i.e. on assumptions about woman’s biological function), not (only) on gender; thirdly it highlights the question mark that hovers over the issue of what extremism is – especially when applied to women. To examine and theorise these ideas, the article moves beyond existing works in critical terrorism studies and looks to research-informed art installations by international artist Navine G. Khan-Dossos, with whom Lisa Downing has collaborated, and to the writings of Julia Kristeva who explores the link between female ‘extremism’ and ‘exceptionality’, and describes how feminism itself is constituted with regard to the socio-symbolic order as a form of terroristic violence.
Lisa Downing is Professor of French Discourses of Sexuality at the University of Birmingham, UK. She is a specialist in interdisciplinary sexuality and gender studies, critical theory, and the history of cultural concepts, with an enduring interest in questions of exceptionality, difficulty, and (ab)normality. Her recent publications include The Subject of Murder: Gender, Exceptionality, and the Modern Killer (University of Chicago Press, 2013), Fuckology: Critical Essays on John Money’s Diagnostic Concepts (co-authored with Iain Morland and Nikki Sullivan, University of Chicago Press, 2015), After Foucault (as editor, Cambridge University Press, 2018), and Selfish Women (Routledge, 2019). Her next book project will be a short manifesto entitled Against Affect.
‘Echo Chamber’. Copyright: Navine G. Khan-Dossos.