Back to All Events

Blow-Up: Fashion and the Culture of Terrorism

  • PPSC 80 Fifth Avenue, Room 1408 New York, New York 10011 (map)

Rhonda Garelick, PhD

*This talk has been approved by New York State for 2 hours of Continuing Education Credit for LMSWs and LCSWs.

We have all heard the terms ‘fashion terrorist,’ or ‘fashion victim,’ expressions used lightly to suggest the dictatorial, punitive, or even violent vagaries of fashion. But the levity of these terms belies a serious and deep relationship between fashion and terrorism, whose discourses in fact border each other. They are also both discourses about borders and boundaries: the borders of the physical and social body; the borders that delineate a nation, group identity, or cause; and the border between the seen and the un-see-able.

Discourses of fashion and terrorism also deal with the possibilities of transgressing, overwhelming, or exploding those borders—either literally or figuratively. Using examples taken from the realms of visual art, literature, film, fashion, and technology, this paper examines the relationship between these two discourses, working toward a new understanding of the changing conceptions of female sexuality, women’s material culture, and citizenship in what Henry Giroux calls the “Culture of Terrorism.” I will be drawing from works by novelist Alex Givarry; Palestinian filmmaker Sharif Waked; Italian conceptual artist Ivana Spinelli; fashion photographer Steven Meisel; and designers Peter Dundas, Riccardo Tisci, Adam Selman, Tina Gorjanc, and Walter van Beirendonck, among others.

Rhonda Garelick writes on politics, popular culture, fashion, performance, literature, and visual art. She is the author of three monographs, including Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History (Random House, 2014). Her column, “Reading the Signs,” appears regularly in New York Magazine’s “The Cut,” and she has also written often for other venues, such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Brooklyn Rail, and Salon. She is a frequent lecturer at universities, theaters, and museums. Garelick is a full professor of English and Performing Arts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Visiting Professor of Art Design History and Theory at Parsons/New School University. She has also taught at NYU, Princeton, the CUNY Graduate Center, Connecticut College, Columbia University, the University of Colorado-Boulder, and Yale. Garelick received her Ph.D. and B.A. from Yale University and also studied extensively in France, at the Ecole Normale Supérieure and Paris VII. She lives—most of the time—in her hometown of New York City, with her husband. And she is a passionate lover of theater, dance, and conversation.

*Please note: A $5 surcharge will apply for those paying at the door, but we suggest buying your ticket in advance as the event may reach capacity before the date of the presentation.

For a refund to a PPSC Annex event, we must receive cancellation notice 7 days prior to the event. Please contact if you want to cancel within this time frame.

PPSC SW CPE is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of Continuing Education for Licensed Social Workers #0054

*This PPSC event is wheelchair accessible, and any participant with a special need should contact PPSC at 212-633-9172 or in advance.

*PPSC does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual preference, national or ethnic origin, or analytic orientation in the administration of its admissions and educational policies.