Sara Ahmed | Losing Your Hand: Complaint, Common Sense, and Other Institutional Legacies

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In his preface to the 2020 book Common Sense: Conservative Thinking for a Post-Liberal Age, Michael Nazir-Ali refers to how the analytical philosopher G. E. Moore defended common sense by pointing to “his own hand,” to show he was “more certain that his hand existed” than he was of “any skeptical attempts to show that such was not the case.” Nazir-Ali then makes use of Moore’s hand to talk about how the coherence and stability of social relationships and institutions are under threat. Many of the contributors to this book articulate common sense as what has been or is being stolen by “woke activists” with their “endless fires of grievance.”

In this lecture, Ahmed will reflect how the objects of common sense—including tables as well handsbecome legacy projects. She will return to testimonies collected from academics and students who have made complaints about abuses of power within universities shared in her recent book Complaint! She will show how some become complainers by virtue of questioning, or not reproducing, a legacy. Complaint provides a lens with which to think about appeals to common sense; common sense becomes more appealing, the more some seem to be losing their hand.

About Speaker

Related Reading

Complaint! (Duke University Press, 2021)

You Pose a Problem: A Conversation with Sara Ahmed (The Paris Review)

Ahmed's Good Grief (Public Books)

About the Speaker

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 begun a new research project on common sense and is currently writing two handbooks, The Feminist Killjoy Handbook and The Complainer’s Handbook. Her previous books include Complaint! (2021), What's The Use? On the Uses of Use (2019), Living a Feminist Life (2017), Willful Subjects (2014), On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life (2012), The Promise of Happiness (2010), Queer Phenomenology: Objects, Orientations, Others (2006), The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2014, 2004), Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality (2000), and Differences that Matter: Feminist Theory and Postmodernism (1998).


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