Feminism and Foucault

When –

Where – City University London- Room AG20 – College Building

Please book your free place here

There is a now vast literature that relates to Foucauldian themes, but which aspects of debate are most pertinent to your specific investigation? How might you mobilise them? In this lecture-plus-workshop, Professor Vikki Bell explores the possibilities for reading Foucault’s thought within feminist analyses in a way that prioritises potential directions and questions for your own projects. Topics that will be covered in the lecture include: the concept of genealogy; modalities of power; subjectivity; performativity, and the work of Judith Butler; bio-politics. In the workshop, further issues will be discussed as they arise from our discussions.

This event is directed at PhD students and ECRs, we recommend the following readings and to come along with questions/points for discussion to make sure everyone gets the most out of this event!

Bell, V (2007) The Promise of Performativity: Theory and/as Political Ethic. In: Bell, V. Culture and Performance: The Challenge of Ethics, Politics and Feminist Theory. Oxford: Bloomsbury: 11-28.

Bell, V (2007) Performativity Challenged? Creativity and the Return of Interiority. In: Bell, V. Culture and Performance: The Challenge of Ethics, Politics and Feminist Theory. Oxford: Bloomsbury: 97-120.

Butler, J (1997) Subjection, Resistance, Resignification: Between Freud and Foucault. In Butler, J. The Psychic Life of Power. Stanford: Stanford University Press: 83-105.

Butler, J (2004) Violence, Mourning, Politics. In: Butler, J. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. London: Verso: 19-49.

Foucault- Lecture on bio-politics: 17th March 1976 from Society Must be Defended: Lectures at the College de France 1975-6


About the speaker: Professor Vikki Bell

Vikki Bell is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Unit for Global Justice in the Sociology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. She studied Social & Political Sciences at Cambridge and gained her PhD at Edinburgh University in 1992. She has taught across all levels at Goldsmiths since she joined in 1993, and has convened the MA Critical & Creative Analysis. She has been a Visiting Scholar at Berkeley, University of California, Yale University, University of Buenos Aires and the International Institute for the Sociology of Law (Oñati, Spain). Vikki is the author of four monographs, including Culture and Performance (Bloomsbury, 2007). Widely published in peer-reviewed journals, she has addressed questions of ethics, aesthetics, subjectivity and politics across the social sciences and theoretical humanities. Recently her work has explored cultural-aesthetic aspects of transitional justice in Argentina, where her research has been funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council and, in 2015-7, by the Economic & Social Research Council. The most recent publication from this project is The Art of Post-Dictatorship: Ethics & Aesthetics in transitional Argentina (Routledge, 2014). This work has recently extended to include Chile.

Video: Ecofeminism, Food and Social Justice Seminar 2

You can watch Rosie and Deborah here:

Seminar 2

When: Wednesday, 16 March 2016 from 16:00 to 18:00

Where: City University London, Northampton Square London EC1V 0HB GB. Room C314 of the Tait Building.


Rosie Boycott

Title: “Women’s Lib, Cooking and Capitalism”

This presentation will raise a number of questions regarding the complex relationship between feminist ideas and cooking under capitalism. Focusing on the British context, it will depart from the founding of Spare Rib in the early 1970s to trace how food companies – in a way – colluded with the early Women’s Liberation Movement to promote meals that did not need cooking, and then how this has gone out of control. The presentation will attempt to reconcile feminist beliefs about women not being dumped with doing all the cooking, and the very real need not to feed ourselves and others on processed meals. We now say ‘we have no time’, but how we spend our time is a choice, and we have chosen not to spend it cooking.

About the speaker: Rosie Boycott co-founded the feminist magazine Spare Rib, along with the publishing company Virago Press. She was the editor of men’s magazine Esquire, and the first woman editor of national broadsheet and national mass-market newspapers (IndependentIndependent on Sunday,Daily Express). She is also an author, broadcaster, filmmaker, and Chair of London Food Board.

Deborah Johnston

Title: “The Production of Malnutrition: a Critical Review of Gender and Differentiation in Agri-Nutrition Policy”

Deborah Johnston (SOAS) will present a paper co-authored with Jasmine Gideon (Birkbeck, University of London). This paper reviews the new wave of agri-nutrition policy documents that have appeared since the food price crisis of 2007/8. The authors find that many policy documents either fail to mention gendered or class-based differences – or consider them in a limited way. In the case of gender, many studies take a narrow approach, failing to draw out the range of restrictions facing women as farmers and consumers of food. The paper concludes that too often policy ignores the multiple ways in which people acquire food in complex food systems.

About the speaker: Deborah Johnston is a Reader in Development Economics at SOAS, University of London. She works on labour, gender, poverty and health in Sub-Saharan Africa broadly. She is the author and co-author of a number of articles in this area including: (2015) Agriculture, Gendered Time Use, and Nutritional Outcomes: A Systematic Review. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); and (2013) Agriculture for improved nutrition: the current research landscape.

The paper’s co-author, Jasmine Gideon, is a Senior Lecturer in Development Studies at Birkbeck, University of London, UK. She is the author of Gender, Globalization and Health in a Latin American Context (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) and the co-editor of Migration, Health and Inequality (Zed Press, 2013). Her current research explores health and well-being among the Latin American community in the UK.

Video: Ecofeminism, Food and Social Justice Seminar 1

You can find the video, photos and Mary’s presentation from the Ecofeminism, Food and Social Justice Seminar 1 here


Sheila Dillon

Title: “Food and Agriculture in the media: Notes from a feminist journalist”

Sheila has been a food journalist for almost three decades, beginning work as an editor and writer at the New York based magazine, Food Monitor. For 20 years she has worked on The Food Programme, first as reporter, then producer and now presenter. Her investigative work has won many awards including the Glaxo Science Prize, Caroline Walker award and several Glenfiddich Awards, most recently for her documentary on the history of the American meat industry. In the late 1980s and 90s she and Derek Cooper covered the breaking scandal of BSE, the rise of GM foods, the growth of the organic movement from muck and magic to multi-million pound business, the birth of the World Trade Organisation and irradiation at a time when those subjects were not even a gleam in a newshound´s eye. Recent programmes on the chocolate industry, fishing practices and food prices carry on the tradition. She is also the creator of Radio 4’s first interactive grocery show, Veg Talk. In January 2008 she was awarded an honorary doctorate by City University for her work, which, the citation says, “has changed the way in which we think about food.”

Mary Mellor

Title: “An Ecofeminist Economics for Sustainability and Social Justice”

This presentation will argue that ecofeminism can provide a framework for sustainable provisioning based on sufficiency (enough) and social justice (an equal right to livelihood). Ecofeminism provides a critique of neoliberal economics because it exposes the linked oppression and marginalisation of ‘women’s work’ (work around the body and sustenance) and the exploitation and degradation of the natural environment. The boundary that excludes both is economic value expressed through the allocation of money: paid versus unpaid or low paid work and nature as a ‘free’ resource. Rather than arguing for the abandonment of money systems the case will be made that money needs to be democratised and re-oriented to public and social benefit.

About the speaker: Mary Mellor is Professor Emeritus at the University of Northumbria, Newcastle upon Tyne. Her early research and activism in the co-operative movement resulted in a co-authored book Worker Co-operatives in Theory and Practice (1988). Later active involvement and research in ecofeminism led to two books Breaking the Boundaries: Towards a Feminist Green Socialism (1992) and Feminism and Ecology (1997). She took part in the anti-nuclear women’s peace camp at Greenham Common and toured Japan talking on Women, Environment and Peace. She also helped set up her University’s Sustainable Cities Research Institute. Concern at the failure of modern economies to recognise unpaid domestic labour and environmental damage resulted in three books: The Politics of Money (co-authored 2002), The Future of Money (2010) and Debt or Democracy (2016).

Last Friday 30th October 2015, I was lucky to attend and present at the ‘Feminist Research Methodologies: Challenges and Negotiations’ conference for postgraduate students at Sheffield Hallam University, brilliantly organized by PhD student Rachel Handforth. The atmosphere was just perfect: warm and supportive, challenging and inspiring – with papers offering stimulating insights from multiple disciplines and feminisms (see programme here). And on top of that a fantastic keynote by Jessica Ringrose (UCL Institute of Education) on ‘Boning up on Impact: Feminist intra-activist research assemblages’!

In my paper titled ‘Interrogating commercial women’s media: A solidary-critical feminist approach’, I explored some ethico-political issues and dilemmas pertaining to the analysis of 64 interviews I have conducted with editors and writers of women’s magazines. Drawing on integrated principles from the feminist ethics of care (e.g., Carol Gilligan 1983) and intention (Val Gillies & Pam Alldred 2012), along with Ros Gill’s (2007) notion of ‘critical respect’, I advanced a ‘solidary-critical’ approach as useful for my study, but also other social science research, with interests ranging from the practices of ‘cool corporations’ (Jim McGuigan 2009) to social justice activism. I likewise argued that in the contemporary heterogeneous terrain of reinvigorated and emergent feminisms, solidary-critical interventions have much to offer.


Gill, R. (2007) Critical Respect: The Difficulties and Dilemmas of Agency and ‘Choice’ for Feminism: A Reply to Duits and van Zoonen. European Journal of Women’s Studies 14(1): 69–80.

Gilligan, C. (1983) In A Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Gillies, V., and Alldred, P. (2012) The Ethics of Intention: Research as a Political Tool. In M. Mauthner, M. Birch, J. Jessop, & T. Miller (Eds.), Ethics in Qualitative Research. Second edition. London: SAGE.

McGuigan, J. (2009) Cool Capitalism. London: Pluto.

Last June, Ros Gill and Jo Littler were in Dublin for the international Console-ing Passions 2015 conference. Ros presented a paper co-authored by Christina Scharff and Ana Sofia Elias from King’s, articulating a new perspective on aesthetic labour. Jo presented a paper on the mumpreneur which considered the gendering of neoliberalism and the meanings of the meritocratic entrepreneur.

Online Misogyny and Sexual Harassment GSRF Event

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On June 17 2015, the GSRF organised a seminar to discuss the topical issue of online misogyny and harassment. We heard from three diverse and interesting speakers researching in this area: Dr Olga Jurasz (Open University), Mark McGlashan (Lancaster University) and Carl Miller from Demos (see below for speakers’ details). The seminar was chaired by Laura Thompson, who is studying at City University for a PhD on the sexual harassment of women over online dating services.

We had a lively discussion on a number of topics, including the role of the law and community policing in addressing online misogyny. Discussions also took place on Twitter using the hashtag #GSRFmisogyny. Here are just some of the Tweets from the event:

We look forward to furthering our Twitter engagement at future events. You can follow us at @GSRF_City.


Event Synopsis:

Online spaces such as blogs, forums and Twitter are invaluable resources for feminist communities. However, due to its nature, the Internet also expands the space available for misogynistic discourses to spread and be heard and – as the cases of Caroline Criado-Perez and Mary Beard demonstrate – provides an outlet for ‘trolls’ to enact vitriolic attacks on women who publicly voice their opinions. Whilst encouraging progress has been made in increasing public and corporate awareness, we still have much to learn about this problem and about how we can start to tackle it. This seminar will discuss new research into the online harassment of women and explore how academic work can start to answer some of these questions. Topics up for discussion include: what methods can we use to track harassment on large social media platforms? What is the role of the law in addressing cyber-hate against women? What would a more ethical Internet look like and how might this be achieved?


Olga Jurasz (Open University):  “Online Misogyny and Social Media: A Challenge for (Legal) Regulation”

Olga Jurasz is a lecturer in law at the Open University Law School. Her main research interests are public international law, human rights and legal regulation of gender-based violence. She has been recently working on a collaborative project addressing gender, cyberviolence and law.

Carl Miller (Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, Demos): “Researching Misogyny on Twitter”

Carl Miller is the Research Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos. It is the first British think tank unit dedicated to researching and understanding the digital world.  He develops new ways of understanding social media as a new part of social and political life. He wrote a weekly column on digital politics for The Sunday Times and is a social media commentator for Sky.  He is a Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College, London.


On January 30 2015, Laura García-Favaro presented a paper entitled “The ‘truth’ cannot be sexist?: Postfeminist biologism in transnational technologies of mediated intimacy”. This was part of the Critical Sexology Seminar ‘Feminist Encounters with Evolutionary Psychology’, which was convened by Rachel O’Neill and took place at King’s College London.

This seminar examined the social life of evolutionary psychology from feminist perspectives, bringing into focus the historical, cultural, and political continuities between evolutionary psychology and contemporary postfeminism. With contributions from Professor Deborah Cameron (University of Oxford), Dr Celia Roberts (Lancaster University) and Laura García-Favaro (City University London), discussions facilitated at this event explored questions such as: In what ways do evolutionary narratives contribute to the naturalisation of sexual difference that has become a pervasive feature of postfeminist media culture? How, in particular, do evolutionary and biological logics manifest within and across sites of mediated intimacy, from Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus to Fifty Shades of Grey? Further, how might narratives from evolutionary psychology serve to consolidate market-orientated approaches to sex and relationships being elaborated under contemporary capitalism? Can the persistence of evolutionary psychology as a framework for understanding social life be mapped onto the broader conjuncture of neoliberalism? Are there unexamined continuities between evolutionary psychology and neoliberal rationalities, particularly with regard discourses of individualism, hierarchy, and meritocracy? Finally, how can feminists negotiate the double complexity of evolutionary psychology as both an academic field and a repository of popular narratives of gender and sexuality as they attempt to challenge relations of inequality and oppression? (O’Neill, 2014)

GSRF Launch Event

On May 15 2014, we officially launched GSRF.  We were incredibly lucky to do so with a public lecture by the brilliant feminist sociologist Bev Skeggs. The lecture was followed by discussion and a wine reception.

Figures of fun, subjects of judgment in the making of proper persons

Since Francis Bacon’s sixteenth century ‘theory of monstrosity’ those with power have developed numerous symbolic methods to classify and judge the value of the powerless in order to force them to labour. For women judgment was usually based on their sexuality in relation to national propriety, purity and progress. The excessively sexual woman has both threatened and fascinated for centuries. This paper will explore how caricatures of female sexuality have developed over time ending with analysis from a recent research project on reality television, Reacting to Reality TV: Audience, Performance, Value, 2012. This research explores modern morality plays, where cartoon versions of this long history of judgment are spectacularly performed on our screens.

PIXIE photo

Beverley Skeggs is an ESRC Professorial Fellow in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. She has also worked in the areas of Women’s Studies and Cultural Studies. Her main publications include The Media (1992), Feminist Cultural Theory (1995), Formations of Class and Gender (1997), Transformations: Thinking Through Feminism (2000), Class, Self, Culture (2004), Sexuality and the Politics of Violence and Safety (2004, with Les Moran, Paul Tyrer and Karen Corteen), Feminism After Bourdieu (2004, with Lisa Adkins), and Reality TV and Class (2011) and Reacting to Reality Television: Audience, Performance and Value (2012) (both with Helen Wood). She is the co-editor of The Sociological Review.

First GSRF Event

In our very first GSRF event on March 25 2014, Lia Litosseliti gave a talk on “Gender and Language: Around the Field in 40 Minutes”. The talk was followed by discussion, and then we all exchanged interests and ideas over a glass of wine and nibbles.

Lia Litosseliti is Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, Language and Communication Science at City University London. Lia has been teaching and writing on gender and language/ discourse for nearly 20 years. She is the author of the books Using Focus Groups in Research (2003) and Gender and Language: Theory and Practice (2006); editor of Research Methods in Linguistics (2010); and co-editor, with colleagues, of Gender Identity and Discourse Analysis (2002), Gender and Language Research Methodologies (2008) and Gender and Language in African Contexts (2013). She is 2012-14 President of the International Gender and Language Association (IGALA)/ Past President of IGALA 2014-16, current Associate Editor of the Gender and Language journal, and reviewer in this area for a range of funding bodies and journals.

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