All of my research is underpinned by a guiding interest in exploring cultural and historical understandings of, and reactions to, perceived (ab)normality, extremity, and exceptionality – whether these be found in the so-called sexual perversions/ paraphilias with which much of my earlier work was concerned; in those subjects who transgress the gendered expectations placed upon them, such as female murderers; or in the ‘selfish’, right-wing women who are the subject of my most recent book. This is also why the ideas of philosopher of ‘normative power’, Michel Foucault, has featured prominently as a theoretical constant in my work, in combination with an individualist feminist ethic which strives to see female subjects always as flawed, full human beings, beyond the straitjackets of gendered norms.
My current research projects include:
(1) ‘(S)extremism’: Building on the ideas explored in the monograph Selfish Women and my other recent publications, the project undertakes an extended exploration and problematization of the expected relationship between categories of identity and political affiliation. The concept of ‘(s)extremism’ describes the set of cultural understandings brought to bear on women who express ‘extreme’ views or who commit acts of (political/ ideological) violence. This project involves both theoretical writing and collaborative, practice-based work, including an ongoing engagement with the artist Navine G. Khan-Dossos.
(2) ‘Against Affect’: This project explores the ways in which the so-called ‘affective turn’ within the academic humanities has coincided with a cultural shift in public discourse concerning reason, feeling, freedom of expression, and identity. I argue for a feelings-free, pro-rational feminist response to the ills of populism, identity politics-based factionalism, and anti-intellectualism. This project will lead to the production of a short, polemical manifesto.
A piece I recently published in the Birmingham Perspective on the “ISIS bride” Shamima Begum, sex stereotypes, and emotionalism in public discourse, gave me the opportunity to bring together some reflections on concerns central to both of these two research projects.
My inaugural lecture at the University of Birmingham took as its subject matter some aspects of my research project on ‘selfish women’.