Neoliberal Cultures and the Problem of the West: Illiberality and Female Empowerment(3/3)

Project Details


The goal of this project is to understand how select popular cultural texts of the 21st century,especially those that feature strong female protagonists, address the problem of governance anddevelop a complicated and critical political language for reflecting on the underlying beliefs andconcepts supporting contemporary post Cold War democracies. Neoliberal culture is understoodas a form of narrative that appropriates rights discourse (such as human rights, civil rights,women’s rights) toward an individualization of empowerment. In contemporary neoliberal culturalproduction, the female protagonist’s story forms within the appropriated discourse of human rightsthat appears to pose her empowerment against the threat of misogyny and violent crimes againstwomen. The issue I will address in this project is how that narrative is embedded in a largerpost-Cold War geopolitical vision that tropes misogyny as anti-West. In other words, this visionconstructs the West as the guarantor of freedoms and rights over and against both feudal andcommunist regimes which are seen as denying them, and are therefore seen as pre-modern. Byputting popular texts and genre criticism on sff in dialogue with recent cultural criticism onneoliberalism and illiberalism, I will, in the course of this three year project, explore how the culturaltexts create tropes of female empowerment to illustrate and challenge what has now beenidentified as the appropriative, incorporating and individualistic yet family-modeled politicallanguage of neoliberalism. Putting them in dialogue with recent academic work on neoliberalismand illiberalism, these emplotments also serve as critical reflections on the constitutive terms ofdemocracy in a post-Cold War context, such as transparency, freedom, the individual, nationalsovereignty and human rights.
Effective start/end date1/08/1731/07/18

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


  • science fiction
  • fantasy
  • neoliberalism
  • female empowerment narrative


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.