CRASSH Impact Lecture Series, Lent Term
Speaker: Sara Ahmed
Use is a small word with a lot of work to do, a small word with a big history. As Rita Felski describes in her introduction to a special issue of New Literary History on use, 'the very word is stubby, plain, workmanlike, its monosyllabic bluntness as bare and unadorned as the thing that it names' (2013, 5). This lecture explores different uses of use across a range of intellectual traditions including biology, design and psychology as well as education. It considers the role of utilitarianism in the forming of the modern university (with specific reference to London University, now UCL). One of the aims of the lecture will be to put ordinary use back into the archives of utilitarianism, showing how use in an 'inside job', how use shapes and moulds the university. Drawing on an empirical study of diversity work, first presented in On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life (2012), the lecture explores how and why diversity is 'in use' as a way of demonstrating how universities are occupied, how they are shaped by patterns of use that often remain unnoticed until they are contested.
Sara Ahmed is an independent feminist scholar and writer. She has held academic appointments at Lancaster University and Goldsmiths, University of London. Her work is concerned with how power is experienced and challenged in everyday life and institutional cultures. She has recently completed a book What’s the Use? On the Uses of Use and has begun a new research project on complaint. Her previous publications include Living a Feminist Life (2017), Willful Subjects (2014), On Being Included (2012), The Promise of Happiness (2010), Queer Phenomenology (2006), The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2014, 2004), Strange Encounters (2000) and Differences that Matter (1998). She also blogs at www.feministkilljoys.com.