Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


IAS Turbulent Laughter: The Laughter that Silences the Law

17 May 2019, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm

Laughter law

Confirmed speakers: Laura Mulvey (Film Studies, BBK), Carey Young (Slade, UCL), Nina Power (Humanities, Roehampton) and Keina Yoshida (Centre for Women, Peace and Security, LSE). Chaired by Tamar Garb (IAS, UCL)

This event is free.

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Albert Brenchat


Gustave Tuck LT
Second Floor, South Junction, UCL
United Kingdom

In the last scene of Marleen Gorris’s film A Question of Silence (1982), a female psychiatrist defends three women accused of murdering a man, the owner of a boutique. In front of these three women sits a panel of men, judging them. A comment from the prosecutor makes one of the accused women start laughing, freely and energetically: “I see no difference between this case and … [one in which] three men... had killed the female owner of a shop”. Laughter spreads all over the room full of women, and the session cannot continue. The law is somehow contested at that moment. For curator Jo Anna Isaak, this moment is a pictorial representation of the idea that Helene Cixous sets out in The Laugh of the Medusa (1975): that is, that laughter is a great form of feminist rebellion against established and dominant powers.

If she's a her-she, it's in order to smash everything, to shatter the framework of institutions, to blow up the law, to break up the "truth" with laughter. (Helene Cixous, The Laugh of the Medusa, p. 15)

This session asks: is laughter capable of causing disruption or turbulence? Can laughter be a tool to challenge the law? Is laughter intrinsically a feminist tool?


Chaired by Tamar Garb (IAS, UCL)

A Question of Silence (De Stilte Rond Christine M.) by Marleen Gorris will be screened at the IAS. Please register here for 14 May and here for 20 May

All welcome. Please note that there may be photography and/or audio recording at some events and that admission is on a first come first served basis. Please follow this FAQ link for more information.