Dr Leticia Sabsay

Dr Leticia Sabsay

Associate Professor in Gender and Contemporary Culture

Department of Gender Studies

020 7852 3766
Room No
English, Spanish
Key Expertise
queer theory; psychoanalysis; bodies and sexuality; visual culture & media

About me

Leticia Sabsay joined the Department of Gender Studies at LSE in September 2014. Prior to this appointment, she held a lectureship at the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London, and was a research associate at the Department of Politics and International Studies, The Open University. Before moving to the UK, she was a lecturer at the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina) for over ten years, and carried out postdoctoral research at the Freie Universitat of Berlin (Germany).

Dr Sabsay’s work interrogates the entanglement between sexuality, subjectivity and political ideals of freedom and justice as processes of cultural translation, both across disciplines and transnational contexts. Throughout her career, Leticia also developed an enduring interest in theories of performativity and discourse, which led her to publish extensively on Judith’s Butler work. This perspective has been central to her current research on disputed ideas of democracy, and how emergent struggles contesting how bodies are differently valued across gender, sexual, and racial lines among others, are embodied in cultural, artistic and political practices, activism and social movements.

Among her research collaborations, Dr Sabsay has been affiliated with the Centre for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University, the Desigualdades International Research Network on Interdependent Inequalities in Latin America, based at the Freie Universität in Berlin, the Institute for Social Research Gino Germani at the University of Buenos Aires, and she is a member of the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programmes, funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

With Sadie Wearing and Sumi Madhok, she edits the book series ‘Thinking Gender in Transnational Times’ for Palgrave Macmillan; and is co-editor of the book series ‘Critical South,’ published by Polity Press.

Member of the PhD Supervisory team of Luma Mantilla and Malena Bastida-Antich. 

Expertise Details

feminist and queer theory; performativity and theories of discourse; sexual citizenship and democracy; politics of embodiment; bodies and sexuality; psychoanalytic theory; visual cultures; aesthetics and media

PhD Supervision

Leticia welcomes MPhil/PhD applications from students working on her areas of research expertise, and especially on topics related to sexual politics, visual culture and cultural activism; embodiment, aesthetics and politics; and psychosocial approaches to subjectivity, gender and sexuality.

Please see our PhD page for how to apply and what we are looking for in a research proposal.




Selected Journal Articles

  • Sabsay, L. (2023) 'Gender(ed) violence in neo-authoritarian times,' Cultural Dynamics, 35:1–2, pp. 29-46.
  • Sabsay, L. (2020) ‘The Political Aesthetics of Vulnerability and the Feminist Revolt,’ Critical Times 3:2, pp. 179-199.
  • Sabsay, L. (2020) ‘Beyond Populist Borders: Embodiment and the People in Laclau’s Political Ontology,’ Theory & Event 23: 3, pp. 810-833
  • Sabsay, L. (2019) ‘Struggles around the Empty Signifier of Freedom: An Interview with Leticia Sabsay,’ Contexto Internacional 41: 2, pp. 397-405.
  • Sabsay, L. (2018) ‘The Subject of Performativity: Between the Force of Signifiers and the Desire for the Real,’ The Undecidable Unconscious: A Journal of Deconstruction and Psychoanalysis 5, pp. 55-91.
  • Sabsay, L. (2018) ‘Sexual Imaginaries of Freedom: Performativity, Bodies and Borders,’ (In Spanish) Debate Feminista 55, pp. 1-26, open access journal, online: http://debatefeminista.cieg.unam.mx/index.php/category/vol-55/
  • Sabsay, L. (2017) ‘As "zonas vermelhas" do espaço público: O caso de Buenos Aires e a regulação urbana do trabalho sexual’, Periodicus: Revista de Estudos Interdisciplinares em Genero a Sexualidades 1: 18, pp. 115-132, open access journal: https://portalseer.ufba.br/index.php/revistaperiodicus/article/view/24600
  • Sabsay, L. (2016) From being sexual to having sexual rights: Translation as a form of dispossession. Darkmatter Journal 14.
  • Sabsay, L. (2013) Queering the Politics of Global Sexual Rights? Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, 13(1): 80-90.
  • Sabsay, L. (2012) The Emergence of the Other Sexual Citizen. Orientalism and the Modernisation of Sexuality. Citizenship Studies, 16(5/6): 605-623.
  • Sabsay, L. (2012) On some paradoxes of sexual citizenship (Sobre algunas paradojas de la ciudadanía sexual), Latin American Journal Debates & Combates, 3: 137-162.
  • Sabsay, L. (2011) The Limits of Democracy: Transgender Sex Work and Citizenship. Cultural Studies, 25(2): 213-229.
  • Sabsay, L. (2011) Family Horizons and the Liberal Paradigm of Happiness (Los horizontes familiares y el paradigma liberal de la felicidad). Intersubjetivo. Revista de Psicoterapia Psicoanalitica, 11(2): 374-382.
  • Sabsay, L. (2010) In the Threshold of Gender? Beauvoir, Butler and the Unfolding of Humanist Feminism (¿En los umbrales del género? Bauvoir, Butler y el devenir del feminismo ilustrado), Revista Feminismo/s, 15: 1-17.
  • Sabsay, L. (2009) In Search of Judith Butler Signature (Tras la firma de Judith Butler), AIBR Revista de Antropología Iberoamericana, 4(3): 311-320.
  • Sabsay, L. (2009) The Return of the Subject between the Antiessentialist Turn and the Liberal Paradigm (El retorno del sujeto entre el antiescencialismo y el paradigma liberal), Boletín Hispano-HelvéticoSociété Suisse d'Études Hispaniques, 13/14: 285-305.


Selected Book Chapters

  • Sabsay, L. (2020) Foreword to Gamez Fuentes, M.J., R. Maseda Garcia, and B. Zecchi (Eds.), Gender-based Violence in Latina American and Iberian Cinemas, London: Routledge, pp. xiv-xvii.
  • Sabsay, L. and N. Brizuela (2020), Foreword to Lopez, M. P., Not One Les: Mourning, Disobedience, and Desire, London: Polity Press, pp. vi-xvi.
  • Sabsay, L. (2016) ‘Permeable Bodies: Vulnerability, Affective Powers, Hegemony’, in J. Butler, Z. Gambetti, and L. Sabsay (eds.) Vulnerability in Resistance. Durham: Duke, University Press, pp. 278-302.
  • Sabsay, L. (2015) ‘Abject Choices? Orientalism, Citizenship, and Autonomy’, in E. Isin (Ed.), Citizenship after Orientalism: Transforming Political Theory. London: Palgrave, 17-33.
  • Sabsay, L. (2015) ‘The Ruse of Freedom: Ownership, Sexuality, Neoliberalism’, in N. N. Dhawan, A. Engel, C.F.E. Holzhey, and V. Woltersdorff  (Eds.), Global Justice and Desire: Queering Economy. London: Routledge, 180-194.
  • Sabsay, L. (2014) Sexual Citizenship and Cultural Imperialism, in P. Neyers and E. Isin (Eds.) Routledge Handbook of Global Citizenship Studies. London: Routledge, 96-109.
  • Sabsay, L., (2013) Citizenship in the Twilight Zone? Sex Work, the Regulation of Belonging and Sexual Democratization in Argentina, in S. Roseneil (Ed.) Beyond Citizenship? Feminism and the Transformation of Belonging. London: Palgrave, 160-183.
  • Sabsay, L. (2013) Questioning Diversity: Sexual Politics, Identity and Liberal Individuals, in E. de Gregorio-Godeo et. al. (Eds), Culture and Power: Identity and Identification. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 17-34.
  • Sabsay, L. (2009) Mapping Visual Economies: Identities, Bodies and Aesthetics (Por los rumbos de la economía visual: Identidades, cuerpos y estéticas), in V. Devalle and L. Arfuch (Eds.), Visualidades sin fin. La imagen en la era de la globalización. Buenos Aires: Prometeo Libros, 75-104.
  • Sabsay, L. (2008) Desire and Discourse: The [Feminist] Subject of Performativity (Deseo y discurso en el sujeto (feminista) de la performatividad), in G. Catanzaro. and L. Arfuch (Eds), Pretérito Imperfecto. Lecturas críticas del acontecer. Buenos Aires: Prometeo Libros, 187-217.
  • Sabsay, L. (2007) The Voice of the Body between Matter and Signification (La veu del cos entre la materialitat i la significació), in AAVV, Obertures del Cos. Valencia: Universitat de Valencia Press, 42-49.
  • Sabsay, L. (2007) Film, Performativity and Contemporary Subjectivities (Cine, Performatividad y Subjetividades Contemporáneas), in F. Gómez Tarín (Ed), Metodologías de análisis del film. Madrid: Edipo, 205-214.


Other Scholarly Writing

  • Sabsay, L. (2016) Review Essay on Joseph Massad (2015) Islam in Liberalism. Syndicate Theology. https://syndicatetheology.com/commentary/leticia-sabsay-commentary/
  • Sabsay, L. (2016) Book Review on Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou (2013) Dispossession: The Performative in the Political. Gender, Place and Culture.
  • Sabsay, L. (2014) Review Essay on Fraser, N. (2013) Fortunes of Feminism: From State-Managed Capitalism to Neoliberal Crisis. Feminist Legal Studies.
  • Sabsay, L. (2014) ‘The promise of citizenship: autonomy and abject choices’, Open Democracy, 24 March. Online: http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/leticia-sabsay/promise-of-citizenship-autonomy-and-abject-choices
  • Sabsay, L. (2013) Queer Dilemmas: Orientalism and Liberal Citizenship. In dialogue with Leticia Sabsay (Dilemas Queer: Orientalism y Ciudadanías Liberales. Un diálogo con L. Sabsay), Iconos Revista Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO-Ecuador), 47: 103-118.
  • Sabsay, L. (2013) Relationality and the Performativity of Norms in Judith Butler (Relacionalidade e performatividade de normas de Judith Butler), Revista Cult, 185, São Paulo (Brasil), 38-43.
  • Sabsay, L. (2012) Orientalism and the modernisation of sexuality, Open Democracy, 5 November. Online: http://www.opendemocracy.net/leticia-sabsay/orientalism-and-modernisation-of-sexuality


Leticia’s work is concerned with the psychosocial formation of sexual imaginaries, and changing notions of gender and subjectivity within political and cultural realms. Her research falls into three broad areas: contemporary representations and translations of sexual ideals of freedom, processes of sexual democratisation (with a focus on Latin America), and Judith Butler’s work on subject formations. Over the past ten years, she has written on issues of sexual diversity and the politics of recognition, sex work, transnational sexual politics, performativity, visual culture, and processes of cultural translation. 

Her first two books, published in Spanish, took as a point of departure the process of sexual democratisation in post-dictatorial Argentina. The Norms of Desire: Sexual Imaginary and Communications (2009), employed the performative theory of gender and subject formation to show how media worked together with the law to recreate a new imaginary of citizenship and the public sphere. Sexual Borders: Urban Space, Bodies and Citizenship (2011) expanded on this perspective to explore different mechanisms of regulation that were central to the re-making of sexual citizenship, pointing to the neoliberal trends that demarcated the sexual democratic turn. Cátedra and Paidós, two leading Spanish-language academic international publishers, published both books respectively.

Parallel to this project, she also co-edited a book on the Spanish reception of Judith Butler’s perspective on performativity (Judith Butler in Dispute: Readings on Performativity, co-edited with P. Soley-Beltrán, 2012, in Spanish). The book exposes the variety of meanings that Butler’s theory might assume when navigating different geo-cultural and political contexts. In so doing, the book decentres common assumptions about the value of Butler’s intervention in the field of gender theory.

More recently, her work has focused on a critical examination of the ‘sexual rights-bearing subject,’ a contemporary political figure derived from hegemonic forms of liberalism within transnational discourses of citizenship and identity politics. She has published a number of articles and book chapters particularly concerned with the expansion and further development of the paradigm of sexual citizenship on a global scale, posing a set of critical questions on the translation of gender and sexual freedom ideals into rights-claims. 

Her most recent book, The Political Imaginary of Sexual Freedom (Palgrave, 2016) develops both a performative and relational approach to the gendered and sexualised body conceived as distinct from the more limited individualistic idea of sexual identity and orientation, an idea that is at play within notions of progress (increased emancipation, the steady extension of rights) in contemporary transnational sexual politics. The analysis draws on cultural texts from film, literature, and the visual arts as well as “glocal” public discourses and theoretical debates, to offer a notion of subjective embodiment that is radically relational and psychically divided, and that implies a different conception of democratic sexual politics for our time.

Following from this investigation, her current work continues tracking nonconforming imaginaries of embodiment in counter-hegemonic cultural practices, including alternative uses of media and art projects, collectives and artists.

In line with this work, Leticia has also co-edited a volume on Vulnerability and Resistance together with Professors Judith Butler (UC, Berkeley) and Zeynep Gambetti (Bogazici University, Istanbul), published by Duke University Press, 2016.


IMPORTANT: Dr Sabsay will be on leave Winter and Spring terms of 2023-24.

Programme co-director for MSc Gender and MSc Gender (Research)

Courses: 2023-24