Dr Sarah Cefai

Sarah Cefai is an LSE Fellow in the Department of Media and Communications. Prior to joining the Department she worked as a researcher and teacher for a number of universities in Australia. She was awarded her PhD in Gender and Cultural Studies by the University of Sydney in 2012, having completed her doctoral research with the support of a University of Sydney International Research Scholarship. Sarah has an MA (honours) in Geography with Gender Studies from the University of Edinburgh and an MSc in Gender from the LSE.


Sarah is a transnational cultural studies scholar whose research concerns the connections between intimate and public life and how these connections manifest a politics of difference—race, gender, class and sexuality. Within this broader framework, her trajectory of research develops a focus on the politics of sexuality through the theorisation of affect, feeling, and emotion. Her account of the ways in which subjects become involved in power through the cultural construction of their feeling extends both the uptake of poststructural theory across the humanities and social sciences, as well as the politics of subjectivity, knowledge, and place such theoretical engagements produce.

In Sydney, Sarah conducted research in a variety of media contexts, including digital media racism, cosmetic surgery tourism, and lesbian digital media. Having worked as a researcher for The Northern Institute at Charles Darwin University, she also has experience in the field of Aboriginal policy research. Through this experience she has researched how the state is imagined in the circulation of representations in national cultural and counter-cultural discourses and how such representations relate to institutional practice. Focusing on issues of social relationships and power, her work has more recently turned to the role of digital media in shaping social experience, particularly through the mediation of intimacy and the generation of intimate publics. Sarah seeks to develop this study of mediated intimacy in relation to feminist, queer and decolonial critiques.

Sarah is currently working on two books. Critical Feelings: A Genealogy of Feminist Knowledge  argues that feminist academic knowledge produced not only new subjectivities but new subjects of feeling. Her argument centres on feminist discussions of embodiment / the body, and experience. Each of these feminist epistemological interventions, she claims, constitutes an opening in the conditions of possibility for feeling’s critical ground inside the Western academy. Contending that such an opening rearticulates feminist expressions of feeling produced in wider social and cultural feminist contexts, the book thus concludes that feminist knowledge has an expressive function as well as an analytic one, and that these functions together are the site of a productive tension in feminist politics, ethics and representation.

The second book is also an examination of critical feeling in contexts of power / knowledge. Unlike Critical Feelings however, this hybrid engagement with academic life engages theory but is written in a non-academic genre, both inside and outside the rigour of academic convention. Drawing on the distinction that Lauren Berlant makes between the structure of an affect and the emotions experienced in relation to a particular event, the book examines the lived, structural and affective themes of sexual harassment truth claims. Journeying through the structures of shame, fear and anxiety, the book encounters changing institutional, technological and media conditions of speech, an intersectional understanding of middle-class heteronormativity and whiteness, the attachment to privilege, and the (im)possibility of accountability within the law. This book is a creative response to the problem of institutional power that forges new ground for feminist action.

Book chapters



Sarah teaches on Theories and Concepts in Media and Communications (MC418) and Methods of Research in Media and Communications (MC4M1, MC4M2). She is also an MSc dissertation supervisor and an academic advisor to MSc students in the Department. Sarah has previously taught on a number of courses in sociology, anthropology, education, cultural studies, and gender studies at Charles Darwin University, the University of Southern Queensland, Macquarie University, the University of Western Sydney and the University of Sydney.