Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies

Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies
School of Sociology and Social Policy
Social Sciences Building
Leeds, LS2 9JT

Tel: +44 (0) 113 343 3770
Fax: +44 (0) 113 343 4415

Annual Lecture: Professor Sara Ahmed ‘Killing Joy: Feminism and the History of Happiness’

Date: 03 March 2010, 17:30h
Location: Yorkshire Bank Lecture Theatre – Leeds University Business School

Gender Studies Annual Lecture

Title: Killing Joy: Feminism and the History of Happiness, Professor Sara Ahmed , Professor of Race and Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College

Abstract: This paper offers a feminist critique of happiness. It proceeds by suspending belief that happiness is a good thing, or that happiness is what we want, as beliefs that are central to the intellectual history of happiness. The paper suggests that feminist histories might offer an alternative history of happiness. It shows how happiness is what makes some things into goods (happy objects are those that are anticipated to cause happiness), and introduces the concept of “conditional happiness,” when one person’s happiness is made conditional upon another’s, to explore
how, for some, happiness means following other people’s goods.

The paper considers feminist consciousness as a consciousness of unhappiness, of what is lost or is given up by following the paths of happiness. Such consciousness does not necessarily involve a form of self-consciousness but a worldly consciousness in which unhappiness disturbs the familiar. The paper reflects specifically on Black feminist consciousness as a consciousness of what does not get noticed when happiness provides a horizon of experience..

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