Autumn Research Seminar: Not White & Male – from good monsters to hackers on screen

Our first research seminar of the academic year welcomes two researchers of gender and visual culture.  These paired papers will take place on Wednesday 30th November, 2-4 pm in room NN.0.07 in Martin Hall. All welcome!

Zara Dinnen (English), University of Birmingham, ‘An Intersectional Gender Politics of Hacking in Furious 7 and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’.

Whether we watch it in documentaries about our real life hacker saviours—The Internet’s Own Boy (2014), Citizenfour (2014), We Steal Secrets (2013)—or in fictive accounts of hacker heroics—The Social Network (2010), Blackhat (2015), Spectre (2015), Live Free or Die Hard (2007), Swordfish (2001) to name some—our popular consciousness knows well that the hacker who will protect us all from our own naivety is almost always white and male. This paper will consider the intersectional gender politics of hackers onscreen by turning away from witnessing the reproducibility of the computer programmer/hacker as a figure of power whose maleness and whiteness presents as neutrality, to look instead at two mainstream Hollywood films that disturb the ease with which we might accept such claims about hackers and hacking: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), and Furious 7 (2015). Both films feature a woman hacker, and in the case of Furious 7 the racially and ethnically diverse cast further skewers the dominant frame. In dialogue with critical work by Wendy Chun, Lisa Nakamura, and Robin James, this paper will consider these films as offering a popular feminist and multicultural politics of hacking, whilst acknowledging the anxieties such representations produce onscreen, the problematic neoliberal aesthetics that undercut the radical potential of these narratives, and the limits of popular genre in imagining the hacker community otherwise.


Rachael Grew (Art History), Loughborough University, ‘”Monstrous” Bodies: Subverting Gender Binaries in Surrealist Art’.

My research to date revolves around various conceptions of the non-normative body in visual culture; bodies that are often considered ‘Other’ at best, and ‘monstrous’ at worst. This monstrosity is not necessarily a reflection of the appearance of the body in question, but rather its ability to disrupt culturally constructed understandings of the body and the self. Rather than promoting a whole, clearly delineated (but also white, masculine, ‘Western’, heterosexual, and healthy) body with a fixed sense of self, the monstrous body is a leaky body: it embraces the fragmented, the shifting, the ambiguous, and the fluid. This talk attempts to tie together various strands of research through this concept of the monstrous body. Beginning with an exploration of androgynous bodies found in alchemical manuscripts, and their adaptation by Surrealist artists in the mid-20th century, I will then move on to discuss one Surrealist artist in particular – Leonor Fini (1907-1996) – and the ways in which she blurs the boundaries between different types of bodies in terms of gender, selfhood, and even species in her art and design work. I hope to demonstrate that, for certain Surrealists, the monstrous body is a positive concept to be embraced; a catalyst for dismantling cultural norms and labels.


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