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Radicalizing Her: Why Women Choose Violence, a public lecture by author Nimmi Gowrinathan

November 10, 2021 at 3:00pm5:00pm EST

Hall of Languages, 500

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This public lecture is based on the book Radicalizing Her: Why Women Choose Violence (Beacon, 2021) and asks what those with power in the West typically don’t see — and the questions they don’t ask when they see women militants. Though the female fighter is often seen as an anomaly, women make up nearly 30% of militant movements worldwide. Historically, these women—viewed as victims, weak-willed wives, and prey to Stockholm Syndrome—have been deeply misunderstood. Radicalizing Her holds the female fighter up in all her complexity as a kind of mirror to contemporary conversations on gender, violence, and power. With narratives anchored in battlefields in the Global South, Gowrinathan offers critical insights at a moment that demands an urgent re-imagining of the possibilities for women’s resistance in the West. Whether challenging the limits of relying on trauma for political action against sexual violence, exploring a rise in gun ownership amongst Black women, or exposing the white feminist ideals driving foreign policy “reading Gowrinathan is a rare treat: when she narrates a story, she is as gripping and lyrical as Arundhati Roy – when she presents her philosophical takeaways on violence, she is precise and innovative, the Hannah Arendt of our times” (Meena Kandasamy, Author of When I Hit You).

Nimmi Gowrinathan is an activist, writer, and scholar and founder of the Politics of Sexual Violence Initiative where she directs,  Beyond Identity: A Gendered Platform for Scholar-Activists at the City College of New York. She is the Publisher of Adi Magazine, and the creator of the Female Fighter Series at Guernica Magazine. Her political essays, described as “a searing search for answers” (Publisher’s Weekly), have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, Freeman’s Journal, Guernica Magazine, and Foreign Affairs among others.

   Radicalizing Her has received early praise.  In a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, this book has been described as “a captivating, essential perspective on a neglected conversation”.

    “Nimmi Gowrinathan has a political imagination like no other. It is playful, yet profound; it is compelling, yet unimposing; it is unafraid of complexity, yet always pushing us toward clarity. With its agile prose and completely innovative form, this book gripped me from beginning to end, forever changing the way I understand how women emerge from layers of oppression and systematic state violence—and teach themselves how to fight back.”
—Valeria Luiselli (Author of Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions)

Below is a blurb from Kirkus Reviews recent starred review:

“Radicalizing Her is an intimate dive into the lives of female freedom fighters in the Global South, correcting long-standing American misconceptions of women, violence, and politics. As the director of the Politics of Sexual Violence Initiative at the City College of New York, Gowrinathan is perfectly equipped to tackle this significant yet overlooked subject, and she forces readers to reckon with the erasure of freedom fighters as political actors. Interspersed with her own family’s history with resistance in Sri Lanka, the author uses a combination of sociological critique, philosophical texts, political theory, and interviews she conducted over the span of 20 years to provide a new understanding of gender and power. “Violence, for me, and for the women I chronicle in this book, is simply a political reality,” she writes.  A captivating, essential perspective on a neglected conversation.”

-Kirkus Reviews

This event was published on October 27, 2021.

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