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    ‘Somewhere. Some time. Somehow. Something has to change’: Prima Facie and the cruel optimism of feminist legal advocacy

    Kennedy, R. and Serisier, Tanya (2023) ‘Somewhere. Some time. Somehow. Something has to change’: Prima Facie and the cruel optimism of feminist legal advocacy. Crime, Media, Culture: An International Journal , ISSN 1741-6590.

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    In her play Prima Facie, playwright and lawyer Suzie Miller uses theatre to critique legal responses to sexual violence. This article thus offers an analysis of the play as both feminist theatre and feminist advocacy. We examine the rhetorical and performative strategies it deploys, arguing that they are effective because they mobilise long-standing feminist tropes which use a representative figure of the traumatised victim and the repetition of statistics to position the audience as potential victims of violence. Such strategies, however, fail to account for the complexity of sexual violence, intersectional understandings of it, or its relationship to other structural forms of harm that flow from turning to the state, as articulated by Black feminist scholars. These limitations also function in the play’s loop between an indictment of law’s failings and recuperating the law as a privileged site for responding to sexual violence. We read this tension as exemplifying the play’s enactment of a cruelly optimistic relationship to law, which is, we argue, a recurring feature in feminist cultural advocacy around sexual violence. However, we also suggest that reading the play through the words of its protagonist can open up visions of justice beyond what Carol Smart has described as the ‘siren call of law’.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences
    Depositing User: Tanya Serisier
    Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2023 13:39
    Last Modified: 22 Sep 2023 15:37


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