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Constructing the Body: Sara Ahmed’s “The Promise of Happiness”

“To kill joy… is to open a life, to make room for possibility, for chance. My aim in this book is to make room.” – Sara Ahmed, The Promise of Happiness

Sara Ahmed’s The Promise of Happiness invites us to take a deep dive into the important yet elusive concept of happiness. The book provides a critique of happiness with a clear analysis through the lens of feminism, racism and queer theory. Using an ‘archive of happiness’ which comprises novels, films, philosophy and social behaviours, the author literally bursts the bubble on the hopeful idea of happiness yet by doing so, she opens up a space for life and for possibility and chance. Ahmed’s sceptical disbelief in the concept may, for some of us, be the right technique for living well.

Sara Ahmed’s The Promise of Happiness invites us to take a deep dive into the important yet elusive concept of happiness. The book provides a critique of happiness with a clear analysis through the lens of feminism, racism and queer theory. Using an ‘archive of happiness’ which comprises novels, films, philosophy and social behaviors, the author bursts the bubble on the hopeful idea of happiness and in doing so, she opens up a space for life and for possibility and chance.

In preparation for the reading group, please read “Introduction: Why Happiness, Why Now?” (p1-20) and Chapter 2, “Feminist Killjoys” (p50-88). The text is available for download at https://cutt.ly/SnjMyu6.

Some of the questions to consider:
– Is happiness really the consensus?
– How happiness is used to justify oppression?
– Are some forms of happiness better than others?
– About bad feelings and the feminist Killjoy.

Due to space limitations, this reading group will be limited to 50 people. MDA does not record reading groups. This conversation will be led by Dipali Gupta and Lim Sheau Yun.

Constructing the Body is a reading group exploring discourses of the body. By unpacking the body as a performative product of systems of power, we reimagine possibilities for contestations, knowledge, disruption, and play.