Feminist Killjoys: an Introduction to Sara Ahmed
What does it mean to be a feminist killjoy? Why are some actions and expressions recognized as bold but others stigmatized as willful? For feminist theorist Sara Ahmed, our embodied experiences are foundational to the ways we move through the world. That is, certain marked bodies—be they queer, black, brown, and/or woman—encounter pressure, resistance, or violence as they attempt to make space and flourish beyond the boundaries of the normative order. Justice seekers are maligned as “killjoys”. Yet, to “kill joy,” as Ahmed writes, “is to open a life, to make room for life, to make room for possibility, for chance.” For Ahmed, the experience of being a problem, of running up against the structures that attempt to exclude you, is the starting point for feminist investigation: into power, queerness, the hegemony of whiteness, and the meaning of intersectional feminism.
This course is an introduction to the prolific and wide-ranging work of Sara Ahmed. We’ll explore Ahmed’s key theories—on queer phenomenology, intersectionality, willfulness, whiteness, and affect—as we seek to understand the experience, challenges, and implications of claiming one’s humanity in the face of institutional and everyday exclusion. We will ask: how do affects of happiness constrain feminist lives? What does it mean to be willful? How are particular kinds of bodies made to stand out or fixed as straight? How are bodies oriented in space, and how does a queer “orientation” disrupt normative social arrangements? What does it mean to live a feminist life? Readings will be drawn from Ahmed’s Queer Phenomenology, Strange Encounters, Willful Subjects, and Living a Feminist Life, as well as the essays “Happy Objects” and “A Phenomenology of Whiteness.”
Course ScheduleWednesday, 6:30-9:30pm EST
October 21 — November 11, 2020