Ahmed, Sara
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Department of Media and Communications
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

Sara Ahmed

Position held:

Professor in Race and Cultural Studies

+44 (0)20

7717 2964

+44 (0)20 7919 7616

s.ahmed (@gold.ac.uk)

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

Professional activities

Editorships and Editorial Boards (journals)

Associate Editor, International Journal of Cultural Studies.
Editorial Board, New Formations.
International Advisory Board, In-Tensions
International Advisory Board, European Journal of Women’s Studies.
International Advisory Board, Borderlands
International Advisory Board, Culture, Theory and Critique.
International Advisory Board, GLQ
International Advisory Board, Emotion, Space and Society
International Advisory Board, Cultural Studies
International Advisory Board, Subjectivities
International Advisory Board, Nora (Nordic Journal of Women’s Studies)
International Advisory Board, darkmatter
International Advisory Board, World Picture
International Advisory Board, Sexualities
International Board, Australian Journal of Critical Race and Whiteness Studies

Editorships and Editorial Boards (book series)

Transformations (Routledge)
Queer Interventions (Cardiff University Press)

Research interests

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 (http://feministkilljoys.com/).

Selected publications


  • (2014). Willful Subjects. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • (2014). The Cultural Politics of Emotion. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Second edition (with new afterword, 'Emotions and Their Objects'). Turkish, Spanish, Korean and Finnish translations forthcoming.
  • (2012). On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • (2011). Vithetens hegemoni (English translation, The Hegemony of Whiteness). With an introduction by Ulrika Dhahl. TankeKraft Förlag.
  • (2010). The Promise of Happiness. Durham: Duke University Press. Awarded the FWSA Book Prize 2011 for "ingenuity and scholarship in the fields of feminism, gender or women’s studies."
  • (2006). Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • (2004). The Cultural Politics of Emotion (Edinburgh Univ. Press/ Routledge). 
  • (2003). Uprootings/Regroundings: Questions of Home and Migration, (co-edited with Claudia Castañeda, Anne-Marie Fortier and Mimi Sheller). Oxford: Berg.
  • (2001). Thinking Through the Skin, (co-edited with Jackie Stacey). London: Routledge.
  • (2000). Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality. London: Routledge.
  • (2000). Transformations: Thinking Through Feminism, (co-edited with Jane Kilby, Celia Lury, Maureen McNeil and Beverley Skeggs), London: Routledge.
  • (1998). Differences that Matter: Feminist Theory and Postmodernism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


  • (2008). ‘Happiness’. New Formations, vol. 63.
  • (2006). ‘Doing Diversity Work’, Policy Futures in Education,  (co-edited with Elaine Swan), 4.1.
  • (2003). ‘Re-Imagining Communities’, International Journal of Cultural Studies, (co-edited
    with Anne-Marie Fortier), Vol 6, no. 3.
  • 2001).‘ Testimonial Cultures , Cultural Values, (co-edited with Jackie Stacey) Vol 5, no1.

Journal articles

  • (2014). 'Not in the Mood,' New Formations, 84: 13-26 http://www.lwbooks.co.uk/journals/newformations/pdfs/nf82_ahmed.pdf
  • (2014). 'Mixed Orientations,' Subjectivities, 7: 92-109.
  • (2012). 'A Willfulness Archive,' Theory and Event, 5,3: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/theory_and_event/toc/tae.15.3.html
  • (2012). 'Whiteness and the General Will: Diversity Work as Willful Work,' philoSOPHIA (special issue on race and philosophy). 2,1: 1-20.
  • (2011). 'Willful Parts: Problem Characters or the Problem of Character', New Literary History, 42: 231-253. 
  • (2011) 'Problematic Proximities: Or Why Critiques of Gay Imperialism Matter', Feminist Legal Studies, 19: 119-132.
  • (2010). 'Feminist Killjoys (and Other Willful Subjects)', Scholar and Feminist Online, http://www.barnard.edu/sfonline/polyphonic/print_ahmed.htm
  • (2010). ‘Killing Joy: Feminism and the History of Happiness,” Signs, 35, 3: 571-592. 
  • (2009). ‘Happiness and Queer Politics,’ World  Picture 3, http://www.worldpicturejournal.com/
  • (2009). ‘Embodying Diversity: Problems and Paradoxes for Black feminists’. Race Ethnicity and Education. Special issue onBlack Feminisms and Postcolonial Paradigms: Researching Educational Inequalities’, edited by Cynthia Josepth and Heidi Mirza. 12, 1: 41-52.
  • (2008). ‘The Politics of Good Feeling’, Australasian Journal of Critical Race and Whiteness Studies. 4, 1.
  • (2008). ‘Sociable Happiness’, Emotion, Space and Society. 1: 10-13.
  • (2008). ‘Multiculturalism and the Promise of Happiness’, New Formations, 63: 121-137.
  • (2008). ‘Imaginary Prohibitions: Some Preliminary Remarks on the Founding Gestures of the New Materialism’, European Journal of Women’s Studies, 15: 23-39.
  • (2007). ‘A Phenomenology of Whiteness’, Feminist Theory, 8, 2: 149-168.
  • (2007). ‘"You End up Doing the Document Rather than Doing the Doing": Diversity. Race Equality and the Politics of Documentation’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30, 4: 390-609.
  • (2007). ‘The Language of Diversity’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30, 2: 235-256.
  • (2006). ‘The Non-Performativity of Anti-Racism’, Merideans: Journal of Women, Race and Culture, 7, 1: 104-126.
  • (2006). ‘The Non-Performativity of Anti-Racism’, borderlands, 5, 3 [reprint]
  • (2006). ‘Doing Diversity Work in Higher Education in Australia’, Educational Philosophy and Theory. 38, 6: 745-768.
  • (2006). ‘Orientations: Towards a Queer Phenomenology’, GLQ, 12, 4: 543-574.
  • (2005). ‘The Politics of Bad Feeling’, Australasian Journal of Critical Race and Whiteness Studies. Vol 1: 72-85.
  • (2004). ‘Declarations of Whiteness: The Non-Performativity of Anti-Racism’, Borderlands,
  • (2004). ‘On Collective Feelings, or the Impressions Left by Others’, Theory, Culture and Society, 20, 1: 25-42.
  • (2004). ‘Affective Economies’, Social Text, 22, 2: 121-139.
  • (2003). ‘The Politics of Fear in the Making of Worlds’ International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 16, 3: 377-398.
  • (2003). ‘In the Name of Love’, Borderlands, 2, 3: 1-41.
  • (2002). ‘The Contingency of Pain’, Parallax 8, 1: 17-34.
  • (2002). ‘This Other and Other Others’, Economy and Society. 31, 4: 558-572.
  • (2000). ‘Whose Counting? ’, Feminist Theory, 1, 1: 119-125.
  • (2000). ‘Who Knows? Knowing Strangers and Strangerness’, Australian Feminist Studies, 15, 31: 49-68.
  • (1999). ‘Phantasies of Becoming (the Other) ’, European Journal of Cultural Studies. 2, 1: 47-63.
  • (1999). ‘Passing Through Hybridity’, Theory, Culture and Society 16, 2: 87-106.
  • (1999). ‘Home and Away: Narratives of Migration and Estrangement’, International Journal of Cultural Studies, 2,3: 329-347.
  • (1998). ‘Tanning the Body: Skin, Colour and Gender’, New Formations, 34: 25-40. 
  • (1997). ‘Intimate Touches: Proximity and Distance in International Feminist Dialogues’, Oxford Literary Review. 19: 19-46.
  • (1996). ‘Beyond Humanism and Postmodernism: Theorizing a Feminist Practice’, Hypatia:  Journal of Feminist Philosophy.  11, 2: 71-93.
  • (1995). ‘Deconstruction and Law's Other: Towards a Feminist Theory of Embodied Legal Rights’, Social and Legal Studies, 4: 55-74.
  • (1995). ‘Theorising Sexual Identification: Exploring the Limits of Psychoanalytical and Postmodern Models’, Australian Feminist Studies, 22:9-30.

Book chapters

  • (2012). ‘Embodying Diversity: Problems and Paradoxes for Black Feminists’ in Y. Taylor (ed). Educational Diversity: The Subject of Difference and Different Subjects. Houndmills: Macmillan. [reprint]
  • (2012). 'Queer Feelings' in D. Hall and A. Jagose (eds). The Routledge Queer Studies Reader. London: Routledge. [reprint]
  • (2012).'Sociable Happiness' in A. Hunt, D. Spencer and K. Walby (eds). Emotions Matter: Explorations in the Sociology of Emotion. University of Toronto Press.
  • (2011). 'Happy Futures, Perhaps' in E. L. McCallum and Mikko Tuhkanen (eds), Queer Times, Queer Belongings. SUNY Press.
  • (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. [reprint]
  • (2010). 'Happy Objects' in M. Gregg and G.Seigworth (eds.), The Affect Reader, Durham, N. Carolina: Duke University Press. (2010).
  • (2010). 'Creating Disturbance: Feminism, Happiness and Affective Differences’ in Marianne Liljeström and Susanna Paasonen (eds). Working with Affect in Feminist Readings: Disturbing Differences. London: Routledge.
  • (2010). 'Orientations Matter' in S. Holland and D.Coole (eds). New Materialisms, Durham, N. Carolina: Duke University Press.
  • (2009). 'Commitment as a Non-Performative' in Begüm Özden Firat, Sarah De Mul, Sonja van Wichelen (eds.). Commitment and Complicity in Cultural Theory and Practice, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • (2009). 'The Organisation of Hate’ in Jennifer Harding and Deidre Pribram (ed). Emotions: A Cultural Studies Reader. London: Routledge. [reprint]
  • (2007). 'Declarations of Whiteness: The Non-Performativity of Anti-Racism' in Damien Riggs (ed), Taking up the challenge: Critical race and whiteness studies in a postcolonising nation, Adelaide: Crawford House Publishers [reprint].
  • (2005) ‘The Skin of the Community: Affect and Boundary Formation', T. Chanter and E. Ziarek (eds) Between Revolt and Melancholia: The Unstable Boundaries of Kristeva's Polis. New York, SUNY Press.
  • (2003) ‘Feminist Futures', M. Eagleton (ed.), A Concise Companion to Feminist Theory, Oxford: Blackwell, 236-254.
  • (2002) ‘Communities that Feel: Intensity, Difference and Attachment' in E.R. Larreta (ed). Identity and Difference in a Global Era, Rio de Janerio: UNESCO, 414-448.
  • (2002) ‘Racialised Bodies’ in Ellie Lee (ed), Real Bodies, London: Macmillan Press. pp. 46-63.
  • (2001) ‘Introduction: Dermographies’ (with Jackie Stacey), Thinking Through the Skin, London: Routledge. pp.1-18.
  • (2001) ‘Communities that Feel: Intensity, Difference and Attachment’, Kuoivunen and S. Paasonen (eds), Affective Encounters, University of Turku/School of Arts, Literature and Music publication series, 10-25.
  • (2000) ‘Embodying Strangers’, A. Horner and A. Keane (eds), Body Matters. Manchester University Press. pp.85-97.
  • (2000) ‘An Impossible Global Justice? Deconstruction and Transnational Feminism’ in J. Richardson and R. Sandland (eds) Feminist Theory and the Law, Cavendish University Press. pp. 55-72.
  • (1999) ‘Passing Through Hybridity’, Vikki Bell (ed), Performativity and Belonging, Sage Publications, pp.87-106.
  • (1998) ‘Animated Borders: Skin, Colour and Gender’, Margrit Shildrick and Janet Price (eds), Vital Signs: Feminist Re-Configurations of the Clinic, Edinburgh University Press. pp. 45-65.
  • (1997) ‘“It's a sun tan, isn't it?”: Auto-biography as an Identificatory Practice', Heidi Safia Mirza (ed), Black British Feminism, London and New York: Routledge, 153-167.
  • (1996) ‘Women in the Orient' in Tess Cosslett. Alison Easton and Penny Summerfield (eds), Women, Power and Resistance, Milton Keynes, Open University Press, 136-152.
  • (1996) ‘Identifications, Gender and Racial Difference: Moving Beyond a Psychoanalytical Account of Subjectivity' in Renuka Sharma (ed), Representations of Gender, Democracy and Identity Politics in Relation to South Asia, Delhi: Indian Book Centre, 288-302.

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