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Sara Ahmed’s Willful Subjects develops an account of willfulness as a site of simultaneous oppression and resistance: a diagnosis attributed to particular (not-quite-)subjects and to modes of behavior that are thereby diminished, pathologized, and controlled, and a “diagnosis” that may be positively affirmed as a way of living and doing otherwise. This essay puts Ahmed’s work on willfulness in conversation with María Lugones’ decolonial feminism, particularly her theory of active subjectivity. With Lugones, we offer, one can better understand the resistant potential of willfulness, not simply as the willful subject possessing an oppositional “will of her own” (which risks reinscribing a unitary notion of the self), but rather, as exercising a different kind of subjectivity altogether—one that relies on multiplicity and arises through relationships across non-dominant difference. Extending the connections that Ahmed herself draws between willfulness and “madness,” we further explore the willful elements in experiences relating to mental illness and cognitive disability, categories of experience that we understand to be important (and undertheorized) aspects of what Aníbal Quijano has termed “the coloniality of power.”
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