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Professor Clare Hemmings

Professor of Feminist Theory 

Gender Institute

Email: c.hemmings@lse.ac.uk

Room: COL.5.01C, Columbia House, LSE

Clare Hemmings is Professor of Feminist Theory, and has been working full-time at LSE's Gender Institute since 1999. Her main research contributions are in the field of transnational gender and sexuality studies, and she welcomes MSc, MPhil/PhD and postdoctoral applications to study with her at the Gender Institute in her primary areas of expertise.

Experience keywords: interdisciplinarity; feminist epistemology and methodology; transnational sexuality studies; feminist theory; anarchism; Emma Goldman.

Professor Hemmings' LSE Experts entry is available here.  

Research Interests

I have two main areas of research focus – feminist theory and sexuality studies – and am particularly interested in thinking through the relationship between these, as well as the ways in which both fields have been institutionalized at national and international levels. This interest has led me to think about how participants in these fields tell stories about their history as well as current form, and to explore how such stories resonate with (rather than against) the broader take-up of feminism and gender equality. I am particularly concerned with the ways in which ideas travel (or do not) across geographical and temporal borders, and am increasingly interested in experimenting with different forms as well as theories of intervention.

Why Stories Matter: The Political Grammar of Feminist Theory was published by Duke University Press in 2011. It explores how feminists tell stories about feminist theory's recent past, why these stories matter and what we can do to transform them. Challenging the frequent assumption that take-up of feminist narratives for conservative agendas is a lamentable co-optation, I suggest that the form of feminist stories produces such amenability. The part of this work that I like the most, though, is where I seek to intervene in these stories, to realign their political grammar to allow a different vision of a feminist past, present and future. This pleasure is partly because it best reflects my interdisciplinary background in literary criticism as well as sociology. Why Stories Matter won the FWSA (Feminist and Women’s Studies Association UK and Ireland) Book Award in 2012, and I continue to lecture on its main themes. 

I have just completed a monograph 'Considering Emma Goldman: Feminist Politics of Ambivalence and the Historical Imagination', which will also be published by Duke University Press. 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. But in the course of my research I realized 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 politics. 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 the human – 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 sexual archive. 

My next project is tentatively entitled 'Feminist Politics Beyond Science'; it explores historical and contemporary engagements with 'non-science' as an essential part of political movements. At present, I am keen to read and think more about the ways in which 19th Century spiritualism offered a productive site for abolitionist and feminist politics, because of (rather than despite) its location outside of the 'rational'. And I want to explore radical lesbian experimentation from the 1960s and early 1970s with the possibility of parthenogenesis; pre-dating the emergence of NRTs that have expanded reproduction, this vision of a world sustainable without men was an important part of separatist politics. Both projects - very different though they are - highlight the importance of creativity outside of mainstream (or even verifiable) knowledge production for the imagination of new worlds that political movements rely on. They may indeed have great 'impact' on the political sphere than scientific or empirically verifiable knowledge projects can do, and suggest the centrality (rather than marginality) of discredited knowledge in producing change.

While I am currently more directly engaged in feminist theory, my interest in sexuality (both in relation to feminism, but also in its own right, or in relation to other issues) endures. While initially very US-UK focused my approach to sexuality has shifted over the years to be concerned with how different theoretical paradigms within sexuality studies travel (or do not) across intellectual, political and national borders. I have published a range of pieces on the relationship between sexuality and ‘culture’, development practices and ‘Western meanings’, and political economy and sexuality. I am particularly keen to think in interdisciplinary ways in this regard since work on sexuality remains more disciplinarily divided that feminist studies. Thus in relation to work on political economy and sexuality, I explore the (usually ignored) importance of psychic attachments in mediating transformations in kinship. Along with colleagues at the Gender Institute, I recently edited the ‘Sexuality’ section of the Handbook on Feminist Theory that brings together colleagues from different national locations concerned with the transnational valence of sexuality studies.

Recent Fellowships and Awards

  • FWSA Book Award (2012)
  • EU Lifelong Learning Programme 2008-2010
  • National Teaching Fellowship Award 2007
  • LSE Teaching Excellence Award 2007
  • Leverhulme Visiting Professorship Host 2007 & 2008
  • CLAGS Martin Duberman Fellowship 2006-2007.
  • NL/UK British Council Research Fellowship 2004

Visiting Fellowship

  • Visiting Professorship with the Centre D'Etudes Feminines, Paris VIII, France – Mar-Aug 2012
  • Docentship in Women's Studies, University of Tampere, Finland - 2009 and ongoing
  • Visiting Professorship in Women's Studies, Duke University, USA, Spring 2006 & 2003
  • Visiting Fellowship, Women's Studies, Utrecht University, The Netherlands, 2002 & 2004
  • Eminent Visiting Scholar, University of Southern Queensland, Australia, July 2016

Selected Publications


The SAGE Handbook of Feminist Theory (eds) Mary Evans, Clare Hemmings, Marsha Henry, Hazel Johnstone, Sumi Madhok, Ania Plomien and Sadie Wearing (2014)

At no point in recorded history has there been an absence of intense, and heated, discussion about the subject of how to conduct relations between women and men. This Handbook provides a comprehensive guide to these omnipresent issues and debates, mapping the present and future of thinking about feminist theory. The chapters gathered here present the state of the art in scholarship in the field, covering: epistemology and marginality; literary, visual and cultural representations; sexuality; macro and microeconomics of gender; conflict and peace. It is an essential reference work for advanced students and academics not only of feminist theory, but of gender and sexuality across the humanities and social sciences.

It is an essential reference work for advanced students and academics not only of feminist theory, but of gender and sexuality across the humanities and social sciences.

Why Stories Matter

Why Stories Matter: The Political Grammar of Feminist Theory by Clare Hemmings (2011)

A powerful critique of the stories that feminists tell about the past four decades of Western feminist theory. Clare Hemmings examines the narratives that make up feminist accounts of recent feminist history, highlights the ethical and political dilemmas raised by these narratives, and offers innovative strategies for transforming them. Winner of the Feminist and Women's Studies Association (FWSA) Book Prize 2012.


Books, Edited Collections and Special Issues:


Revolutions, Feminist Review, Issue 106 (eds) Rutvica Andrijasevic, Carrie Hamilton and Clare Hemmings (2014)

This issue emphasizes the difference it makes to the theory and practice of revolution to place gender at the forefront of analysis, and asks what makes revolution feminist. While scholars have paid considerable attention to the role of women in revolutions, we ask why gender and women continue to be sidelined in both theory and practice. But the issue seeks less to ‘add gender or women’ in, but to ask what happens to the very concept of ‘revolution’ when approached from a feminist perspective. The pieces collected here explore historical, contemporary, cultural, political and literary aspects of these questions, and further, engage dimension of sexuality, generation and race as essential to any revolutionary answers.

  • Co-editor with Mary Evans, Marsha Henry, Hazel Johnstone, Sumi Madhok, Ania Plomien and Sadie Wearing, Handbook of Feminist Theory (London: Sage, 2014)
  • Co-editor with Rutvica Andrijasevic and Carrie Hamilton, ‘Revolutions’, Feminist Review, Issue 106, 2014.
  • Why Stories Matter: the Political Grammar of Feminist Theory (Duke University Press, 2011)
  • Editor, 'Transforming Academies', Feminist Review, Issue 95, 2010
  • With Veronica Vasterling, Enikő Demény, Ulla Holm, Päivi Korvajärvi and Theodossia-Soula Pavlidou, Practising Interdisciplinarity in Gender Studies (York: Raw Nerve Press, 2006)
  • Co-editor, Travelling Concepts in Feminist Pedagogy: European Perspectives (York: Raw Nerve Press, 2006). [series of 4 texts and website]
  • Co-editor, 'Sexual Moralities', Feminist Review, Issue 83, 2006.
  • Co-editor, 'Everyday Struggling', Feminist Review, Issue 82, 2006.
  • Bisexual Spaces: a Geography of Gender and Sexuality (New York: Routledge, 2002).
  • Guest editor, 'Stretching Queer Boundaries', Sexualities, Vol. 2, No. 4, November 1999.
  • Co-editor, Bi Academic Intervention, ed., The Bisexual Imaginary: Desire, Representation, Identity (London: Cassell, 1997)

Recent Journal Articles:

  • ‘Sexual Freedom and the Promise of Revolution: Emma Goldman’s Passion’, Special Issue: ‘Revolutions’, Feminist Review, No. 106, 2014.
  • 'The Materials of Reparation', Feminist Theory, Vol. 15, No.1, 2014, pp. 27-30.
  • 'Considering Emma', European Journal of Women's Studies, Vol. 20, No.4, 2013, pp. 334-346.
  • ‘In the Mood for Revolution: Emma Goldman’s Passion’, Special Issue: ‘In the Mood’, New Literary History, No. 43, 2012, pp. 527-545.
  • ‘Affective Solidarity: Feminist Reflexivity and Political Transformation’, Special Issue: 'Affecting Feminism: Questions of Feeling in Feminist Theory’, Feminist Theory, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2012, pp.147-161.
  • ‘Sexuality, Subjectivity and… Political Economy?‘ Subjectivity, Vol 5, No. 2, 2012: pp.121-139; to be reprinted in Handbook of Feminist Theory (also Sage, 2013)
  • ‘Collective Powers: Rupture and Displacement in Feminist Pedagogic Practice’, European Journal of Women’s Studies, Vol. 18, No. 3, 2011: pp.4-10.
  • 'Tuning Problems? Notes on Women's and Gender Studies and the Bologna Process ', European Journal of Women's Studies, Vol 15, No. 2, 2008: 117-127.
  • 'What's in a Name? Bisexuality, Transnational Sexuality Studies and Western Colonial Legacies', International Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 11 Nos.1/2 March 2007, pp. 13-32.
  • 'Rescuing Lesbian Camp', Special Issue: 'Twenty-First Century Lesbian Studies', Journal of Lesbian Studies, Vol. 11, No. 1/2, 2007, pp. 175-182.
  • 'What is a Feminist Theorist Responsible for?: Reply to Torr', Feminist Theory, Vol. 8, No. 1, 2007, pp. 69-76.
  • 'Invoking Affect: Cultural Theory and the Ontological Turn', Cultural Studies, Vol. 19, No. 5, 2005, pp. 548-567.
  • 'Telling Feminist Stories', Feminist Theory, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2005 pp.115-139.

Chapters in Books:

  • With Amal Treacher, 'Feminist History and the Subject of Agency', for Sumi Madhok, Anne Phillips and Kalpana Wilson, eds, Agency and Coercion (Palgrave MacMillian, 2013).
  • 'Crossings', in Mary Evans and Kathy Davis, eds, Transatlantic Conversations: Feminism as Traveling Theory (Ashgate, 2010).
  • 'The Life and Times of Academic Feminism: Checking the Vital Signs of Women's and Gender Studies', in Kathy Davis and Mary Evans, eds, The Handbook of Women's and Gender Studies (London: Sage, 2006), pp.14-34, reprinted in A. Honing, ed Travelling Heritages (Amsterdam: IIAV, 2008), pp. 263-284.

International Keynote Lectures

  • ‘Telling Feminist Stories about “Gender”’, Gender Studies 20th Anniversary Conference, University of Lisbon, Portugal, October 2015.
  • ‘A Longing For Letters: Writing the Impossible as Queer Feminist Method’, Writing Affect, Humboldt University, Berlin, July 2015.
  • ‘Why Stories (Still) Matter: Institutionalising Feminism In and Out of the Academy’, Akademischer Feminismus. Produktion und Transfer von Genderwissen conference, University of Freiberg, February 2015.
  • ‘Is Gender Studies Singular?, 40th Anniversary Celebration Conference, Centre de Genre, Paris 8, France, May 2014.
  • ‘Feminist Historiography for Our Times’, keynote, Gender and Politics, Annual Gender Research Conference Copenhagen, April 2013.
  • ‘Feeling Judgment’, keynote, Feminist Judgment Conference, LSE, May 2012.
  • ‘Desiring the Past, Inhabiting the Present’, keynote, 8th European Feminist Research Conference, Budapest, May 2012.

Current Teaching And Administration

  • Convenor of optional Masters-level unit G21/22/23 ‘Sexuality, Gender and Globalisation’
  • Lecturer on GI425 core course in Gender Theories
  • Member of Professorial Research Committee
  • Currently main or joint supervisor for 7 PhD students, and advisor for 2

Professional Activities

  • Co-Editor of Book Series Gender Theories in Transnational Times for Palgrave.
  • Editorial Board Membership of: Subjectivity
  • External Co-Chair of Feminist and Women's Studies Association (UK and Ireland) -- 2003-2006
  • Project Manager of 'Travelling Concepts in Feminist Pedagogy: European Perspectives', 2003-2006.

External Examining

  • UCL and Institute of Education (2015)
  • SOAS and South Bank (2013)
  • Central European University (2012)
  • University of Utrecht (2008)
  • University of Cardiff (2007)
  • University of Melbourne (2007)
  • University of Lancaster (2006)
  • University of ZwazuluNatal, S.A. (2006)
  • Internal PhD examiner - University of London (2005 and 2006)

External Programme Examiner

  • External Consultant ‘Etude de faisabilite en vue de la creation d’un master interuniversitaire en etudes de genre en Belgique’, graduate development project (Sophia asbl, Belgium)
  • External Evaluator ‘Interdisciplinary Studies in Gender and Culture’ Programme (University of Chile, 2010; and 2012)
  • External Examiner for MA in Gender, Sexuality and Culture, University of Manchester, 2007-2010
  • External Examiner for MA Gender Studies and MA Gender Research, University of Newcastle, 2005-2006