student in media lab

Sara Ahmed

Happiness, Empire, and Melancholic Migrants

Public Lecture
Thursday, October 30, 2008
5 pm. Main Lecture Hall, Franklin Patterson Hall
Hampshire College
Reception to follow the lecture

This paper will explore how the imperial mission was justified as a "happiness mission," as a way of elevating the other from an unhappy to happier state of existence, or in a utilitarian frame, as a way of maximizing global happiness. The paper considers how the happiness mission gets translated into a happiness duty for migrants in contemporary contexts. Drawing on readings of the film Bend it Like Beckham, and related representations of British Asian struggles, the paper argues that happiness is promised in return for proximity to whiteness. The melancholic migrant appears as the one who fails to be converted, who refuses to let go of suffering, and who stubbornly holds onto memories of racism.

Sara Ahmed is professor of Race and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths College, University of London. In 2008/2009 she is the Blanche, Edith and Irving Laurie New Jersey Chair in Women's Studies and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. Her books include Differences that Matter: Feminist Theory and Postmodernism (1990); Strange Encounters; Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality (2000); The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2004) and Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others (2006). The book from which her paper will be drawn, The Promise of Happiness, is forthcoming with Duke University Press.

The Race and Empire Series is sponsored by the Humanities Program, the Office for Diversity and Multicultural Education, and the President's Office at Hampshire College.


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