Defining a wave? The visual culture and artistic practices of fourth wave feminism

Morgan, Francesca Patricia (2023). Defining a wave? The visual culture and artistic practices of fourth wave feminism. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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What defines a wave? This question encapsulates the difficulty of defining something both fluid and active. In response, this thesis focusses on the messiness, contradictions and entanglements of fourth wave feminism, offering a more complex and nuanced understanding of this feminist temporality in opposition to reductive and simplified definitions. I go beyond existing scholarship on fourth wave feminism to examine how the fourth wave is constituted in relation to three intersecting and overlapping areas: social media; visual and artistic practices; and its relationship to previous waves, especially second wave feminism. I resist oppositional framings of feminist waves by focussing on the overlaps, convergences, (dis)continuities and connections between artworks from supposedly opposing feminist waves. Indeed, this thesis analyses feminist art and visual culture in order to challenge oppositional and linear framings of feminist waves due to the ways in which contemporary feminist artists draw on, rework and are shaped by earlier feminist tactics and traditions.

The intergenerational comparative analyses in this thesis are framed by three core modes, each of which forms the basis of a substantive chapter: speaking out against sexual violence; “reclaiming” the body and (in)visibilities; and the use of humour and subversion. My original methodology of fourth wave feminist art criticism provides a flexible framework with an art historical grounding that is appropriate for analysing this material. Moreover, by comparing case studies from the fourth wave and previous waves, this thesis also intervenes into a live and reactive movement and draws out what lessons can be learnt to benefit contemporary feminist discourse and praxis and sustain it for the future. Overall, by analysing the connections and (dis)continuities between visual culture and artistic practices of the second and fourth waves, this thesis contributes to the understanding of fourth wave feminism, thus challenging misconceptions about contemporary feminism and oppositional and linear framings of feminist waves.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: E History America > E151 United States (General)
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR


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