Jo Shaw | The Art of Being Dangerous

 Jo Shaw

A major inspiration for the project was the tendency by some in the media to describe particular women as ‘the most dangerous woman in’ Scotland, or the UK, or the world.

The Art of Being Dangerous offers many different images of women, some humorous, some challenging, some well-known, some forgotten, but all unique. In a dazzling variety of creative forms, artists and writers of diverse identities explore what it means to be a dangerous woman. "We want readers to be inspired by the idea of the ‘dangerous woman’, and to want to know how that might impact upon their lives", explains editor Jo Shaw.

Briefly and concisely explain in plain language what the book is about.
Our book is a collection of short contributions on the broad topic of dangerous women, art and creative practice. A number of the contributions are essays and reflections by women on the topic of ‘what makes a dangerous woman’, but the majority are reflections (and images) by women artists themselves exploring the issue of ‘dangerousness’ through their creativity. We also commissioned an additional introductory essay which engages with the range of work in the collection, as a way of highlighting some general themes, illuminating – as the introduction puts it – ‘the dynamics, conflicts, identities and power relations with which women live today’.

What or who inspired you to choose this topic?
From International Women’s Day 2016 to International Women’s Day 2017, the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh ran a major project called the Dangerous Women Project. It showcased writings on the topic of ‘what makes a dangerous woman’ on a dedicated website, with one entry per day for an entire year. A major inspiration for the project was the tendency by some in the media to describe particular women as ‘the most dangerous woman in’ Scotland, or the UK, or the world, etc. This is done, we think, as a means to try and control such women. As a result, we were particularly pleased to publish a reflection by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has received this treatment quite widely in the press, on the topic of Dangerous Women. While the Dangerous Women Project was much wider in scope, this book is a collection of some of these entries on the topic of dangerous women and art.

Do you have any reading suggestions to share (books, blogs, journals, ...) for anyone who wants to know more about the subject?
We invite readers to look at the Dangerous Women Project website, which provides a nicely indexed and beautifully curated selection of entries on the topic of ‘what makes a dangerous woman?’. Use the search function to find topics that interest you from politics, via suffrage, to biography and sport. We promise you that each of these entries will get you thinking and take you on new voyages of exploration.

How did the writing process for this book go? Did you experience anything surprising, amusing or strange?
We were excited by the opportunity to explore the presentation of the idea of ‘dangerous women’ in the classic book format. As this had originally been a digital project (supplemented by a number of in person events that took place in Edinburgh during the period when the website was being built, one entry at a time), it was interesting to see how well the work of our contributors ‘translated’ onto the physical page. It raised, for example, challenging questions about layout and presentation which were different to those we faced when we put the website together. We were greatly helped by the enthusiasm and investment of Leuven University Press in the design process in bridging that gap between the digital and the physical.

What would you like readers to remember about your book?
We want our readers to be inspired by the idea of the ‘dangerous woman’, and to want to know how that might impact upon their lives. We also invite them to follow up the work of the many talented contributors and to delve into the Dangerous Women Project website.

Do you have any plans yet for another publication? What will it be about?
A second volume will be published in 2022 by Unbound. Titled “Dangerous Women: Fifty reflections on women, power and identity”, the book invites poets, playwrights, artists, academics, journalists, historians, performers and opinion-formers to reflect on the danger of females. Contributors include Nicola Sturgeon MSP, broadcaster and journalist Bidisha, playwright Jo Clifford, prize-winning novelist Irenosen Okojie, acclaimed journalist Jean Rafferty, essayist and writer Laura Elizabeth Woollett, novelist and architect Yewande Omotoso, poet and performer Rachel McCrum, prize-winning novelist and poet Claire Askew, celebrated author Nada Awar Jarrar, critic and publisher Laura E. Waddell, BBC comedy writer Jasmine Tonie, writer and editor Annee Lawrence, award-winning poet and translator A.C. Clarke, poet, writer and presenter Mab Jones and feminist historian Chiara Bonfiglioli.


The Art of Being Dangerous

The Art of Being Dangerous
Exploring Women and Danger through Creative Expression
Edited by Jo Shaw and Ben Fletcher-Watson






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