GSA Seminar: Feminist Scholar-Activism and the Politics of Affect

Maria Stehle's picture
January 26, 2017
Tennessee, United States
Subject Fields: 
German History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Women's & Gender History / Studies, Political History / Studies, Political Science


German Studies Aassociation Seminar: Feminist Scholar-Activism and the Politics of Affect

Applications are now open to our WiG-sponsored seminar at the GSA Conference (Atlanta October 5th-8th, 2017)! Please submit your abstract via the GSA website by January 26, 2017 at Please note GSA rules: All seminar participants must be registered GSA members by February 10, 2017. No individual may undertake more than one "presenter role," defined as giving a paper or participating in a seminar.  An individual may participate in a seminar and also participate in one roundtable or offer commentary on a separate panel. 


Seminar Description

This seminar investigates the interplay among feminist theory, academic labor, and affect as activist work. Our first goal is to interrogate the functioning of affect in feminist scholar-activist practices. We consider, for example, Sara Ahmed’s work on how feminism relies on the loneliness of being a killjoy, of challenging sites of happiness, while survival as feminist resides in the precarious moments of recognition and connection between similar killjoy activists. Jasbir Puar argues for an interrogation of debility that recognizes affect in the body as site of creative resistance, but also increasing surveillance and regulation. Other readings address the function of anger, joy, and other affects in activism.

  • How do affects inform your positioning as feminist researcher? Where are limits or sites of conflict for such positioning?
  • How do affects participate in research or creative practice? What affective relationships exist between the researcher and the research subject?
  • How are affects deployed as strategies or goals in activist research?
  • How do affects construct particular relationships between the researcher and the subjects/objects of study?
  • How do you write your affects in?

Scholars of color and queer scholars participating in work against racism, homophobia, and other forms of exclusion have been foundational to the work of affect studies. This seminar emphasizes feminist scholar-activism as intersectional practice, highlights the diversity of feminist practice, and considers how homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, racism, antisemitism, and other forms of exclusionary violence inform feminist scholar-activism and the politics of affect.

  • How do gender, sexuality, race, nation and ability operate in the politics of feminist affect?
  • How does the body function as site of creative disturbance/resistance as well as object of surveillance?
  • How do affects circulate in the production of feminist alliances, coalitions, and acts of solidarity?
  • How can collaborative academic-activist work account for diverse subject positions and what are the potential obstacles for such work?

The seminar is organized around a selection of theoretical texts and pre-circulated thought papers. Selected readings by feminist-activist scholars develop concepts related to affect, recognize the challenges to some understandings of intersectionality posed by affect theory, and center the contributions of queer scholars and scholars of color. Texts for the seminar (circulated by April 1st) include selections from Sara Ahmed's On Living a Feminist Life, Jasbir Puar’s Affective Politics: States of Debility and Capacity, Jin Haritaworn’s Queer Lovers and Hateful Others, and entries from Ahmed’s blog feminist killjoys.


Each participant will prepare an individual short paper addressing the guiding questions of the seminar from the perspective of their own research, research practices, or activist work (due Aug. 1). Their short papers (3-5 pages) should end with a series of impulse questions. Each paper will be assigned two respondents, who will collaborate on a response (350-500 words; due Sept 1). These responses will form the jumping-off point for the discussions of the three seminar sessions. Conveners will read all of the individual papers in advance, form the response groups, and guide the conversation when needed. The seminar will result in a collaborative research blog where public scholarship meets conceptual tools for scholar-activist interventions.


Feel free to email one of the three co-conveners, Beverly Weber (, Ariana Orozco (, or Maria Stehle (

Contact Info: 

Maria Stehle, Associate Professor or German, University of Tennesseee Knoxville

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