What's the Use?
On the Uses of Use
Publisher:Duke University Press
Published:25th Oct '19
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In What’s the Use? Sara Ahmed continues the work she began in The Promise of Happiness and Willful Subjects by taking up a single word—in this case, use—and following it around. She shows how use became associated with life and strength in nineteenth-century biological and social thought and considers how utilitarianism offered a set of educational techniques for shaping individuals by directing them toward useful ends. Ahmed also explores how spaces become restricted to some uses and users, with specific reference to universities. She notes, however, the potential for queer use: how things can be used in ways that were not intended or by those for whom they were not intended. Ahmed posits queer use as a way of reanimating the project of diversity work as the ordinary and painstaking task of opening up institutions to those who have historically been excluded.
“In this close reading of use, Sara Ahmed leads the reader from object to object at a pace that moves with the deliberateness of a philosopher and the grace of a literary scholar. With this and other books, Ahmed has established herself as one of the most important feminist thinkers in the world.” -- Rosemarie Garland-Thomson
“With characteristic verve and force, Sara Ahmed explores the uses of use. More than a history of an idea and much more than a philosophical investigation of use and value, Ahmed’s book teaches us how to locate use, usefulness, used-upness, used objects, and useful and useless knowledge in relation to time, space, queerness, and more. Read this book; you need it, and more importantly, you will use it. It is useful and useless in equal proportion and compelling precisely because of its mixed-use value. Before you know it, you will get used to use and you will carry it with you always.” -- Jack Halberstam
“How lucky we are that feminist killjoy Sara Ahmed takes us on her learned, witty, and insightful journey. With her evocative exasperation at the state of affairs with regard to the (im)possibilities of diversity work and complaint, she dismantles the sexist and racist structures of the modern university. Now as a courageous, independent scholar, Ahmed continues to shine her characteristic phenomenological lights on walls and doors and more. She is still here; she refused to get used to it!” -- Gloria Wekker
"By crafting different routes, travelling lesser-known paths, and finding alternate ways of telling stories about use, Ahmed invites her readers to see the world from these non-normative subject positions and to rethink and reshape their own worldviews in the process." -- Sohel Sarkar * AC Review of Books *
"A well-written, engaging text. Highly recommended. All readership levels." -- C. R. McCall * Choice *
"Ahmed sought to write a text that intervenes in the everyday, that elevates a threadbare backpack to a place of unbound theoretical play. And she has done so. Although some readers may find themselves frustrated by Ahmed’s deflections of tangible directive, that seems to be precisely the point. Accessible and innovative, What’s the Use? will be of serious interest to activists, artists, and academics working at the intersections of queer and critical race studies." -- Caitlin Mackenzie * QED *
“Ahmed follows an unexpected and fascinating pathway through the history of use, one that brings together scientific theories, institutional histories, and everyday life.... Ahmed’s explorations are animated by a spirit of reinvention that challenges both the conventions of philosophical practice and the taken-for-granted boundaries of feminist thought.” -- Eden Kinkaid * Feminist Formations *
"What’s the Use? combines an intellectual history and a philosophical exploration of the concept of use with ethnographies and personal reflections on institutional diversity work. . . . Ahmed’s paradoxical undertaking reveals one must first subvert institutional diversity practices, in order to truly diversify an institution." -- Velina Manolova * Public Books *
“What’s the Use? is a rigorous book with power.... Ahmed’s book wields theory in the right way.... I came away from What’s the Use? feeling equipped with new knowledge and ready to use it.”
-- Minhae Shim Roth * Continuum *
"Ahmed’s book is an interdisciplinary treasure for scholars that contributes to diverse strands of thought including women’s studies, decolonial studies, disability studies, and queer studies. Furthermore, the 'queer and idiosyncratic' method of the book (19) offers rich resources for 'troublemakers,' student organizers, feminist collectives, and human rights advocates." -- Pallavi Gupta * International Feminist Journal of Politics *