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) ‘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.
(2) 'Critical Freedoms': This project critically examines the concept of freedom broadly – and of freedom of expression in particular – through the lens of concepts and insights from modern critical theory and the continental philosophical tradition. It addresses the ways in which, and reasons why, ‘freedom' is often assumed to be a value of the Right wing and asks what those of other political affiliations risk losing when they allow and endorse this. Relatedly, it addresses how the rhetoric of ‘choice', linked with neoliberal models of governmentality, instrumentalizes ideals of individual freedom for particular ideological and economic ends. An initial publication from this project will be an edited Special Issue of the journal Paragraph that will appear in 2023.
My inaugural lecture at the University of Birmingham took as its subject matter some aspects of my research project on ‘selfish women’ that culminated in my 2019 monograph of that title