Ruth Glynn

‘The Discourse of Maternity in Cultural Representations of Female Terrorists’



This paper addressed the various ways in which discourses of maternity are employed in cultural discussions pertaining to female terrorists, from the 1970s to the 2000s. It began by identifying that, throughout this period, a maternalist discourse underpinned much journalistic and public commentary about women terrorists and the challenge they pose to social order.

It then proceeded to examine how, in the corpus of post-terrorist narration that emerged in Italy in the 1990s, female former terrorists came to employ a discourse of maternity, either to justify their actions during the anni di piombo as essentially altruistic and caring in nature or to construct the post-terrorist self as feminised and non-violent. In both cases, the discourse of maternity serves to realign the former terrorist with the dominant discourses of gender and nation, thereby promoting her public rehabilitation, facilitating her release from prison and easing her re-entry into Italian society.

In the final section of the paper, attention was paid to the Italian States’ subsequent deployment of a discourse of maternity as a pacifying influence in the case of the New Red Brigades’ member, Cinzia Banelli. It was observed that the State’s construction of Banelli’s pregnancy at the time of her arrest as a sign of her readiness to disengage from terrorist activity presented maternity as antithetical to militant activity, and marked her out from her peers as a woman who could be redeemed by the nation, domesticated and recuperated into society by the powerful combination of patriarchal intervention and maternity.