Eliza Steinbock
The Somatechnics of Willfulness. Review of Willful Subjects by Sara Ahmed
– Krisis Journal for Contemporary Philosophy
Book review 2016


Ahmed’s latest contribution to feminist ‘not philosophy’ is an assemblage of heterodox readings of continental philosophy and literature that incorporates insights from cultural theory, queer and black feminist studies. She explains that the book contributes to ‘not’ philosophy not only through a non-philosopher engaging the novelist George Elliot as a philosopher (though she is “not”), but also by attending to “the not” in order to make it an object of thought (15). ‘Willfulness might be what we do when we are judged as being not, as not meeting the criteria for being human,’ writes Ahmed, succinctly parsing the main thrust of her explorations in the archive of ‘not being white, not being male, not being straight, not being able-bodied’ (Ibid.) As such, Willful Subjects greatly expands on the figure of the feminist killjoy introduced in Ahmed’s The Promise of Happiness (Duke, 2010); it even claims to be readable as a prequel by returning to characters, texts and the question of conditional sociality (see p. 219 n42). By figuring the stray, and doing philosophy astray, Ahmed’s writing stridently affirms the negative “not” within philosophy’s discipline.