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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi
Introduction: Hearing Complaint 1
Part I. Institutional Mechanics 27
1. Mind the Gap! Policies, Procedures, and Other Nonperformatives 29
2. On Being Stopped 69
Part II. The Immanence of Complaint 101
3. In the Thick of It 103
4. Occupied 137
Part III. If These Doors Could Talk? 175
5. Behind Closed Doors: Complaints and Institutional Violence 179
6. Holding the Door: Power, Promotion, Progression 220
Part IV. Conclusions 257
7. Collective Conclusions by Leila Whitley, Tiffany Page, and Alice Corble, with Heidi Hasbrouck, Chryssa Sdrolia and others 261
8. Complaint Collectives 274
Notes 311
References 343
Index 353

About the Author

Sara Ahmed is an independent scholar and author of What's the Use?, Living a Feminist Life, and other books also published by Duke University Press.


"Sara Ahmed always has her finger on the pulse of the times as she assists us to explore the deeper meanings and philosophical nuances of quotidian concepts and practices. Beautifully written and thoroughly engaging, Complaint! is precisely the text we need at this moment as we seek to understand and transform the institutional structures promoting racism and heteropatriarchy." -- Angela Y. Davis
"In her latest contribution to our knowledge, Sara Ahmed gifts us with a book about the phenomenology of complaint and the layered, entangled complexity of how power works institutionally. She foregrounds that to complain is to transgress. To transgress is to become a site of negation. To negate is to trigger an institution into protecting the status quo through risk-adverse processes that are experienced as violent and exhaustive. Ahmed's intellectually expansive book achieves two things: it exposes the meaning, experiences, and perceptions of complaint and provides testimony to the courage of those who complain, who fight, who believe justice should not just appear to be done; it must be done." -- Aileen Moreton-Robinson, author of * Talkin' Up to the White Woman: Indigenous Women and Feminism *
"[Ahmed] presents a strong argument that power in higher education tends to protect itself, that diversity initiatives are often nothing more than window dressing, and that those who file complaints about a hostile work environment often face accusations of disloyalty or troublemaking. . . . Most of the charges here are broad and general, but anyone who has worked in higher education will recognize much of what Ahmed brings to light. Sharp criticism of an overlooked systemic problem in higher education." * Kirkus Reviews *
"In her powerful new book . . . Sara Ahmed builds on a series of oral and written testimonies from students and employees who have complained to higher education universities about harassment and inequality. Here, she asks readers to think about some inescapable questions: What happens when complaints are pushed under the rug? How is complaint radical feminism? And, how can we learn about power from those who choose to fight against the powerful?" -- Rebecca Schneid * Indy Week *
"This is audacious but persuasive critique, which accrues its power by stealth. Complaint! is dense with insight, but admirably lucid." -- Zora Simic * Australian Book Review *
"Inspired by the students she worked with, Ahmed's new book examines the act-indeed, the feminist pedagogy-of complaining within an organization. With the help of testimonials from individuals who filed complaints of harassment, bullying, and abuse at Goldsmiths and other universities, Ahmed explores the cracks within these formal systems and illustrates the painful processes that survivors experience too often." -- Yvette Dionne and Rosa Cartagena * Bitch *
"An absolutely brilliant endeavor. . . . The real nuance and sophistication of this book, written with such emotional and intellectual insight, the means by which Ahmed identifies strategies of institutional power in relation to power in relation to harassment and abuse is revelatory, thorny, painful, and very, very necessary." -- Linda M. Morra * Getting Lit with Linda *
"Sara Ahmed's Complaint! is an antidote to apathy. . . . The potent reminder that Ahmed offers is that we are not the ones with the problem, that a number of voices raised up in complaint can help identify that the problem lies elsewhere."
-- Eda Gunaydin * Sydney Review of Books *
"It's feminism that isn't out to win friends but should certainly influence people. It's angry because anger is required. And it's collective and inclusive. . . . ever quick to pick up on ironies and contradictions, she nails it time after time. 'Making a complaint is often necessary because of a crisis or trauma,' she writes, but 'the complaint often becomes part of the crisis or trauma.' Such phrases characterise Ahmed's Moebius band idiolect; they hit home because of the writer's extraordinary skill." -- Emma Rees * Times Higher Education *
"Ahmed brings great authority and gravity to Complaint!, from her own experiences (she resigned from an institution after they mishandled a series of complaints), her engagement with a "complaint collective" in the UK, and her decades-long scholarship in feminist, queer, and race studies. Black feminism and women of color feminism anchor the book. The author does not flinch at the difficult intersections where one underrepresented or traditionally marginalized group seems at odds with another; instead, she examines the effects of complaint in each area of these intersections, retaining her sharp focus on an analysis of power dynamics." -- Ellen Mayock * Public Books *
"This is another insightful book in Ahmed's well-regarded series of considerations of what acting as a feminist in non-feminist institutions means. . . . Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals." * Choice *
"Ahmed illuminates how institutions like the university are designed for precisely the people who can and continue to flourish while miming theoretical righteousness and perpetuating violent norms." -- Anna Nguyen * LSE Review of Books *
"Complaint! offers catharsis, collectivity, and care. It is an archive of complaint, it is a radical call to action, and it is a feminist record. It is also beautifully written, deeply painful, and absolutely necessary at this very moment." -- Catherine Oliver * Gender, Place & Culture *
"This book is inspiring and a source of solidarity. It provides encouragement to protest and fight for change. And whilst no doubt a difficult read for university leaders, they should read it to help them reflect on what is happening in their institutions and learn how they can truly implement those policies and practice to bring about fair and just equality of opportunity." -- Gill Crozier * British Journal of Sociology of Education *

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