2 May 2024 17:00 - 19:00 Room SG1, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge


An event by the Ambivalent Archives research network.
Registration is not required for this event as it is only in person.

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Clare Hemmings (Professor of Feminist Theory, LSE)


In this talk, Clare Hemmings will discuss her current work on the project Inheritance: a Memory Archive, which engages questions of gender, sexuality, class-transition and nation through a series of short stories drawing on stories of family histories. She will introduce some extracts from her article ‘We Thought She Was a Witch‘, drawing out the inter-generational take-ups of gender and race as part of narrating class-transitional belonging.

About the speaker

Clare Hemmings is Professor of Feminist Theory at the London School of Economics where she has been on the faculty for the Gender Department (formerly Gender Institute) for 15 years. Her main research contributions are in the field of transnational gender and sexuality studies. Hemmings is particularly interested in thinking through the relationship between feminist theory and sexuality studies, as well as the ways in which both fields have been institutionalised at national and international levels. She is also a member of the Feminist Review Collective, a group that is “committed to exploring gender in its multiple forms and interrelationships”, and publishes the peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal Feminist Review. Her publications include Bisexual Spaces (Routledge 2002) and Why Stories Matter (Duke 2011), for which she won the 2012 Feminist and Women’s Studies Association Book Prize.

In Considering Emma Goldman: Feminist Politics of Ambivalence and the Historical Imagination (Duke 2018), Hemmings delved into the archive. In her words, the book considers the significance of the work and life of the anarchist activist Emma Goldman (1869-1940) for contemporary feminist theory and politics. An archive-based project, I initially wanted to continue the work in Why Stories Matter to explore a new way of telling a different set of stories about feminism’s present: ones that do not rely on identity, do not separate sexuality and economics, and have long been internationalist and/or intersectional. But in the course of my research I realised that I am at least as interested in the strands we would prefer to leave behind in Goldman’s thinking: her essentialism, her viciousness to women (and men), and her vexed relationship to race and racism. Attention to these aspects of her thought interrupt contemporary feminist thought in rather different ways, and suggest a feminist politics that addresses directly some of the difficulties – of femininity, race and sexual politics – that I believe need urgent attention. The project returns me to my literary theory roots in a different way to the 2011 project, insofar as it includes a creative letter-writing project that seeks to animate and intervene in the queer and feminist archive in invested ways.

Hemmings is currently working in the project Inheritance: a Memory Archive, where she engages questions of gender, sexuality, class-transition and nation through a series of short stories drawing on stories of family histories. Combining fiction and memoir, the project seeks to foreground the moments in family dynamics that challenge what we think we know about gender roles, sexuality and citizenship. Working from the multiple stories told about key characters, she dramatises the unevenness of (queer feminist) history, the power of affect to shape lives, and to critique teleologies of progress or loss from another angle. Hemings has reflected on the process of these interventions in a series of articles, most recently for Memory Studies.

Event recording


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