A Day in the Life: Writer Sara Ahmed Delivers Compelling Lecture on Complaint as Queer Methodology
A student perspective on the 28th annual Margaret Laurence lecture
The Trent community was pleased to welcome Dr. Sara Ahmed, an accomplished writer and scholar intersectional feminist theory, as the Gender & Social Justice 2022 Margaret Laurence guest lecturer.
Read on for student Sara Bonnell’s impression as an attendee of this year’s event.
Author, activist, and feminist scholar Dr. Sara Ahmed delivered the 28th annual Margaret Laurence lecture. The lecture series emerged from a two-year hiatus with over 1,000 people registered and attendees joining from around the globe to hear Dr. Ahmed speak on complaint as a queer method.
In her lecture, Dr. Ahmed pointed out that to complain is to not be heard. When someone complains, they are often dismissed and not listened to. Often, if you complain in the institution, you are seen as negative, or as a ‘complainer’ – the age-old trope that so-and-so is always complaining about something or other, and so their complaints get brushed off.
The doors of complaint
For many, there is also the fear that complaining about sexual harassment, sexual assault, racism, or any discrimination against someone who holds a position of power. Dr. Ahmed describes this as doors being closed on them – they are warned not to complain or ‘make a big deal’ out of something that is harmful or offensive to them lest they burn bridges or close doors, losing opportunities for the future. Complaint can also take place behind closed doors. Though in theory, this is to provide confidentiality and anonymity, often what happens is that complaints are kept within the confinements of those four walls and the power to construct (or misconstruct) the complaint lies within the listener.
Knock, Knock, Knock
Dr. Ahmed brings to light the power of listening to those who have complaints and believing them. Although the institutional authorities may want to keep complaints behind locked doors, there is power in numbers. Complaint can be a form of activism, and this can have many different forms – in art, literature, sciences, and other fields – the list goes on. What is most important is to knock on the locked doors and disturb the institutions that allow for discrimination, harassment, and assault to happen. Knock on the doors of complaint and listen to the answers you receive. The possibility of finding others through complaint and shared experience is valuable. There is solidarity to be found in numbers, and each complaint is a scratch at the door that exposes the truth.
Special thanks to the Gender and Social Justice Studies department for making this lecture possible. Sara Ahmed’s full lecture will be available on the Trent YouTube channel in May.