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Complaint as Diversity Work

Joan S. Korenman Lecture

Tuesday, February 19, 2019
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Fine Arts : Recital Hall
Joan S. Korenman Lecture

Sara Ahmed, independent feminist scholar and writer

What can we learn about the workings of power from those who challenge power? This talk approaches complaint as a form of diversity work: the work some have to do in order to be accommodated. Making a complaint requires becoming an institutional mechanic: you have to work out how to get a complaint through a system. It is because of the difficulty of getting through that complaints often end up being about the system. Based on interviews with staff and students who have made complaints related to unfair, unjust or unequal working conditions and to abuses of power such as harassment and bullying, the talk explores how the experiences that lead to complaint and the experiences of complaint are hard to untangle. it reflects on the role of academic networks and professional intimacies in shaping what happens to complaints and to those who complain.

Bio: Sara Ahmed is an independent feminist scholar and writer. 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, which is forthcoming with Duke University Press in 2019. Her lecture will be drawn from her current 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 blogs at

Sponsored by the Gender, Women’s, + Sexuality Studies Department; the Dresher Center for the Humanities; the Media and Communication Studies Department; and the English Department.

UMBC is committed to creating an accessible and inclusive environment for all faculty, staff, students, and visitors. If you would like to request accommodations (e.g., ASL interpreters, captioning, wheelchair access, etc.) for this event due to a disability, please notify us at least two weeks prior to the event. Requests received after that time cannot be guaranteed, but we will do our best to make arrangements for program access. Please contact us at with your specific request and be sure to include the event title, date, and time.
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