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“Willful Women: Feminism, Happiness and the General Will”
November 2, 2010
Sara Ahmed, Goldsmith’s College, University of London
(4 p.m. reception; 4:30 p.m. lecture)
This paper locates the figure of the feminist killjoy within a history of willful women. To be willful is to cause unhappiness by not aligning your will with the general will. To be willful has been described as a relation of part to whole: a particular will is willful when it does not will the happiness of the body of which it is a part. Willfulness is a charge of rebellion, where the rebel is a part. This paper argues that feminists should accept and mobilize the charge of willfulness. Not only can we challenge the idea that happiness is what we do or should will, but willfulness can offer us a style of politics, a way of refusing to ‘be part.’