Ill Will: Or, Mental Illness and Resistant Subjectivity in Ahmed and Lugones

Main Article Content

Katie Howard
Cash Kelly


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.”

Article Details

How to Cite
Howard, K., & Kelly, C. (2022). Ill Will: Or, Mental Illness and Resistant Subjectivity in Ahmed and Lugones. Journal of World Philosophies, 7(1), 13–28. Retrieved from
Author Biographies

Katie Howard, Southwestern University

Katie Howard is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Southwestern University. Her research in feminist philosophy, including decolonial feminisms, is primarily concerned with the affective dimensions of oppression and resistance. Her work has also appeared in Raisons Politiques and Global Justice: Theory, Practice, Rhetoric.

Cash Kelly, University of Texas at Austin

Cash Kelly is a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, pursuing degrees in Women and Gender Studies and Information Studies. Their research is at the intersection of decolonial feminism and disability studies, with a particular focus on madness and resistance.