Sara Ahmed

Staff details

PositionProfessor in Race and Cultural Studies
Email s.ahmed (
Phone+44 (0)20 7717 2964
Sara Ahmed

I am the co-convenor of the MA in Gender, Media and Culture and convenor of the Feminist Postgraduate Forum.  I am the Director of the Centre for Feminist Research.

My courses are:

  • Race, Empire and Nation
  • Gender, Affect and the Body

Areas of supervision

I would be interesting in supervising phd students in the following broadly defined areas:


  • Feminism
  • Queer Theory
  • Race and Postcolonial Theory



Willful Subjects
Ahmed, Sara . 2014. Willful Subjects. Durham: Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0822357834 [Book]

The Cultural Politics of Emotion
Ahmed, Sara . 2014. The Cultural Politics of Emotion. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press; 2nd Revised edition. ISBN 978-0748691135 [Book]

On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life
Ahmed, Sara . 2012. On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. London: Duke University Press. ISBN 9780822352211 [Book]

Vithetens hegemoni
Ahmed, Sara . 2011. Vithetens hegemoni. Tankekraft Förlag. ISBN 978-9186273194 [Book]

The Promise of Happiness
Ahmed, Sara . 2010. The Promise of Happiness. Durham, North Carolina, USA: Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-822-34725-5 [Book]


Not in the Mood
Ahmed, Sara . 2014. Not in the Mood. New Formations: A Journal of Culture, Theory, Politics , 82, pp. 13-28. ISSN 0950-2378 [Article]

'Mixed Orientations
Ahmed, Sara . 2014. 'Mixed Orientations. Subjectivities, 7, pp. 92-109. [Article]

Whitenes and the General Will: Diversity Work as Willful Work
Ahmed, Sara . 2012. Whitenes and the General Will: Diversity Work as Willful Work. philoSOPHIA , 2(1), pp. 1-20. ISSN 2155-0891 [Article]

A Willfulness Archive
Ahmed, Sara . 2012. A Willfulness Archive. Theory & Event , 15(3), [Article]

Problematic Proximities: Or Why Critiques of Gay Imperialism Matter
Ahmed, Sara . 2011. Problematic Proximities: Or Why Critiques of Gay Imperialism Matter. Feminist Legal Studies, 19(2), pp. 119-132. ISSN 0966-3622 [Article]

Book section

Embodying Diversity: Problems and Paradoxes for Black Feminists
Ahmed, Sara . 2012. Embodying Diversity: Problems and Paradoxes for Black Feminists. In: Yvette Taylor, ed. Educational Diversity: The Subject of Difference and Different Subjects. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 203-218. ISBN 978-0230293427 [Book Section]

'Queer Feelings'
Ahmed, Sara . 2012. 'Queer Feelings'. In: Donald Hall and Annamarie Jagose, eds. The Routledge Queer Studies Reader. London : Routledge. ISBN 978-0415564113 [Book Section]

'Sociable Happiness'
Ahmed, Sara . 2012. 'Sociable Happiness'. In: Dale Spencer; Kevin Walby and Alan Hunt, eds. Emotions Matter: A Relational Approach to Emotions. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-1442612532 [Book Section]

'Happy Futures, Perhaps'
Ahmed, Sara . 2011. 'Happy Futures, Perhaps'. In: E L McCallum and Mikko Tuhkanen , eds. Queer Times, Queer Becomings. SUNY Press, pp. 159-182. ISBN 978-1438437729 [Book Section]

‘"You End up Doing the Document Rather than Doing the Doing": Diversity. Race Equality and the Politics of Documentation’
Ahmed, Sara . 2011. ‘"You End up Doing the Document Rather than Doing the Doing": Diversity. Race Equality and the Politics of Documentation’. In: Lindsay Prior, ed. Using Documents and Records in Social Research. SAGE Publications Ltd; Four-Volume Set edition. ISBN 978-1849207331 [Book Section]

Conference or Workshop Item

Conversation on Black British Feminisms
Ahmed, Sara and Mirza, Heidi . 2014. 'Conversation on Black British Feminisms '. In: Conversation on Black British Feminisms. George Wood Theatre, Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom. [Conference or Workshop Item]

Debilities: Sensing Bodies and Worlds
Puar, Jasbir; Gunaratnam, Yasmin ; Hickey-Moody, Anna Catherine and Ahmed, Sara . 2014. 'Debilities: Sensing Bodies and Worlds'. In: Debilities: Sensing Bodies and Worlds. Goldsmiths, Universirty of London, United Kingdom. [Conference or Workshop Item]

Screening and Panel Discussion on the work of Angela Davis, Free Angela and Other Political Prisoners
Ahmed, Sara ; Anim-Addo, Joan ; Bernard, Claudia A. ; Mirza, Heidi ; Puwar, Nirmal and Thobani , Sunera. 2013. 'Screening and Panel Discussion on the work of Angela Davis, Free Angela and Other Political Prisoners'. In: Centre for Feminist Research Screening and Panel Discussion. Goldsmiths, Universirty of London, United Kingdom. [Conference or Workshop Item]

Feminism@ Goldsmiths
Fenton, Natalie ; Ahmed, Sara ; Anim-Addo, Joan ; Blackman, Lisa ; Jefferies, Janis K. ; Puwar, Nirmal and Reckitt, Helena . 2013. 'Feminism@ Goldsmiths'. In: Feminism@ Goldsmiths. Goldsmiths, Universirty of London, United Kingdom. [Conference or Workshop Item]

Edited book

Edited journal

Doing Diversity Work’
Ahmed, Sara and Swan, Elaine, eds. 2006. Doing Diversity Work’. [Edited Journal]


My research is concerned with how bodies and worlds take shape; and how power is secured and challenged in everyday life worlds, as well as institutional cultures. I begin with the messiness of the experiential, the unfolding of bodies into worlds, and the drama of contingency, how we are touched by what comes near. My work explores how differences, otherness and strangeness become ‘properties’ of bodies and spaces over time. Differences that Matter (1998) analyses intersections between differences in the shaping of identities, challenging the reification of difference in some postmodern theory. Strange Encounters (2000) examines how others are racialised by being recognised as strangers, as ‘bodies out of place’. More specifically, the book explores 'stranger fetishism', how the figure of 'the stranger' acquires a life of its own by being cut off from histories of determination, however unfinished those histories may be. The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2004) considers how emotions register the proximity of others. It describes emotions as ‘the flesh of time’ and explores how emotions are attributed to objects, such that objects become sticky, or full of affective value. Queer Phenomenology (2006), explores how orientations affect how bodies inhabit time and space, re-thinking the ‘orientation’ in ‘sexual orientation’ and the ‘orient’ in orientalism. I offer a philosophical and personal exploration of how bodies are orientated by ‘what’ they come into contact with (using the example of the philosopher and the table). The Promise of Happiness (2010) considers how we are directed toward certain objects by the promise of happiness, such that we 'happen' upon those things that are already attributed as happiness causes. In this book, I explore how the freedom to pursue 'whatever' makes us happy is directive: we are free to pursue this 'whatever' on condition that it causes happiness, which as a condition involves an implicit demand that we make certain choices. Drawing on feminist, queer and anti-racist 'unhappy archives,' as archives that are assembled out of the struggle against happiness, the book considers happiness by taking up those who enter its history as 'wretches', 'killjoys' and 'affect aliens.' It analyses how one history of happiness is the history of the removal of the hap from happiness, and calls not only for 'the freedom to be unhappy,' but for a politics that puts the 'hap' back into happiness. On Being Included (2012) examines the turn to diversity within institutional cultures, and explores race equality policies as 'non-performatives' that do not bring into effect that which they name. It discusses how those who describe the problem of racism are treated as if they are creating a problem, as threatening an institution's reputation for 'being diverse.' This book also reflects on a genre of argumentation we can call 'overing': how it is assumed that we are 'over' racism (and other relations of structural inequality) or that by getting over racism, racism will be over. It reflects on how diversity workers come up against 'a brick wall' in attempting to transform institutional cultures and calls for a politics that does not 'look over' what we cannot or do not 'get over.' Willful Subjects (2014) explores how willfulness is a a charge made by some against others. It shows how one history of will is a history of the requirement to eliminate willfulness from will. It explores how willfulness might be required to recover from the attempt as its elimination.


Current research:


  • I have begun a new research project on Utility: The Uses of Use. In this project I will not only track the history of the idea of use (across a range of domains including design and material culture, evolutionary theory, as well as political and ethical theory) but will reflect on how utility becomes a social as well as moral injunction. I am especially interested in the use of the assignment of uselessness (with particular reference to class and the social body).
  • I am writing a book Living a Feminist Life, which draws on everyday experiences of being a feminist, in particular experiences of being a feminist killjoy, as a way of doing feminist theory.  I hope to develop "sweaty concepts," by working on and through and with experiences that are trying or difficult. The book will focus on the importance of renewing feminism as a mode of critique, and as a way of challenging power (including through a willful citational practice). The book is organised as three sections: Becoming Feminist (Feminism is Sensational, On Being Directed, Willfulness and Feminist Subjectivity); Diversity Work (Trying to Transform, Being in Question, Brick Walls) and Living the Consequences (Fragile Connections, Feminist Snap, Lesbian Feminism) as well as an Introduction, Bringing 'Feminist Theory' Home, and two conclusions: A Killjoy Survival Kit and A Killjoy Manifesto.  I am working through some of this material on my feminist killjoy blog (