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Dr Annette-Carina van der Zaag

Lecturer in Sexuality and Social Theory.

BA Philosophy (University of Amsterdam), MA Social Research (Goldsmiths), PhD Sociology (Goldsmiths)


Academic background

  • Annette-Carina van der Zaag has an interdisciplinary background, holding a PhD in Sociology from Goldsmiths (2012) after having initially studied Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. Her research interests are situated in feminist/queer theory, black studies and posthumanism with particular interest in the body, sexuality and HIV. Before coming to Birkbeck in September 2017, she lectured in gender studies and conducted research at Goldsmiths. Furthermore, she worked as a lecturer in Sociology of Emotions at the University of Greenwich and City University London.

Research and teaching


  • My research is situated at the intersection of feminist/queer theory, black studies and posthumanism. I am interested in interrogating what it means to be human, how such an entity is constructed and might be constructed differently for more liveable futures - with particular attention to the various modes of dehumanisation that constitute the emergence of the human in (post)modernity. Empirically, I am interested in specific materialisations and sexualisations of bodies and psychic life worlds in constitutive relation with science, technology and art – often as directly related to HIV.
  • My recently published monograph Materialities of Sex in a Time of HIV is written on the cusp of feminist theory of materiality and the analysis of an object at the heart of various sex/gender manifestations – the vaginal microbicide. Vaginal microbicides are female-initiated HIV prevention methods (currently tested in clinical trials) designed as creams, rings, gels and sponges that women can insert vaginally before having sex to protect themselves against HIV infection. The microbicide is developed as a tool for women’s empowerment in the HIV epidemic, but what happens to feminist ideals when they materialise through biomedical practice? The book provides an analysis of the field of microbicide development to articulate the complexity of its promise and material effects; and utilises the microbicide as an analytical ally in a provocative debate with contemporary feminist theory. In particular, it engages feminist theory’s move into posthuman terrains as theorists utilise human/nonhuman relations and a motley crew of nonhuman entities to reinvigorate feminist critique of nature/culture dichotomies. I interrogate the politics of such a move and question: what space remains for critical encounters with sex/gender relations including their racial and (post)colonial dimensions?
  • In my new research I am interested in the relations between stigma and sexual difference. Bringing together queer, trans and feminist theory on stigma and affect, posthuman theory on materiality and theories on blackness and post-slavery subjectivity I explore how stigma can be thought as productive of sexually differentiated bodies; and how inscriptions of blackness and sexual difference can be thought of as productive of stigma as body mark (stigmata). I am currently principal investigator (together with Dr. Rory Crath (Smith College – New York) and Dr. Paul Boyce (University of Sussex - Brighton)) of an international arts-based collaborative project on HIV stigma with research partners in Delhi, Havana and Nairobi. Here we utilise an arts-based methodology called Embodied Mapping to engage stigma as generative of sexual cultures and practices, biotechnologically mediated bodies and psychic life worlds. By engaging HIV stigma as a phenomenon differentially embodied within and between UNAIDS Fast-Track Cities, we seek to open out important new ways in which to critically address stigma in relation to HIV prevention and so-called ‘post-AIDS’ global developmental goals.
  • Alongside my academic practice I worked as a custom corseter under my own brand for over 10 years and I have recently stopped working on commission to focus on art practice. As such, I am currently working on an art project entitled Nomadic Objects which explores blackness, bodies and futurity through wearable sculpture.

Research interests

  • Feminist theory; queer theory; posthumanism; black studies; STS; the body; sexuality; monstrosity; futurity; blackness; aesthetics; HIV/AIDS; health and illness; art practice and visual culture


  • I am currently the Module Convenor for the 2nd year BA Psychosocial Studies module Sexuality, the 1st year module Power II and I conduct the BA dissertation workshops in Spring term.


  • I currently supervise students who are working in the areas of feminist theory, queer theory, black studies, posthumanism, sexuality, race, resistance and various forms of art practice



  • Van der Zaag, A C (2017) Materialities of Sex in a Time of HIV: the promise of vaginal microbicides (Book series: Critical perspectives on Theory, Culture and Politics). London & New York: Rowman and Littlefield International.

Book chapters

  • Van der Zaag, A. C. & McKnight, U. (2017) ‘Exploring the Relational Complexity of Serodiscordance: negotiating violence, temporality and diaspora’. In A. Persson and S. Hughes (eds.) Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Couple with Mixed HIV Status: beyond positive/negative (Book series: Social Aspects of HIV). Springer.

Journal articles

  • Van der Zaag, A. C. (2017) ‘Imaginings of Empowerment and the Biomedical Production of Bodies: the story of Nonoxynol-9’. Science and Technology Studies (special issue: Global Health and STS) 30(4): 45-65
  • McKnight, U. & Van der Zaag, A. C. (2015) ‘When Debility Provides a Future: preventing vertical transmission of HIV’. Feminist Review (special issue: Frailty and Debility), 111: 124-139


  • Van der Zaag, A. C. (2016) ‘On Posthuman Subjectivity’, Journal of Cultural Economy 9(3): 330-336


Invited talks

  • The Promise of Vaginal Microbicides: materialities of sex in a time of HIV. Medical Sociology seminar series. University of Sussex 2017
  • Q&A on HIV/AIDS in South Africa, Film screening Life, Above All. African Presence at the LSE seminar series. London School of Economics and Political Science 2017


  • Black is the Colour. Queer Inscriptions, Black Becomings. Birkbeck institute for Gender and Sexuality, Birkbeck Institute of the Moving Image, Department of Psychosocial Studies. Birkbeck 2019
  • Towards a Posthuman Ethics of Raw Desire: non/human sexuality beyond dehumanisation. Raw: Cannibalism, Feminism, Philosophy & (Post-)Psychoanalysis. Birkbeck Institute of the Moving Image, Department of Psychosocial Studies and the Department of Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies at Goldsmiths. Birkbeck 2018
  • Posthuman Landscapes of Sexual Revolution? on the political ethos of feminist new materialism. Association for Psychosocial Studies conference, Bournemouth, 2018
  • On the Figure and the Real: vaginal figurations and materialities of HIV. Society for European Philosophy/ Forum for European Philosophy conference. University of Winchester 2017
  • The Promise of Vaginal Microbicides: a neomaterialist investigation of empowerment ideals. British Sociological Association Medical Sociology Group Annual Conference. University of York 2017
  • Nonconformity in the Face of HIV. 4S/EASST annual conference: Society and Technology by other means: exploring collectives, spaces and futures. Barcelona 2016
  • The Ethics of Speaking HIV. ASSHH UK workshop. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine 2016
  • Whose future? PrEP in the HIV Diaspora. After Prep: ethical sexualities, viral memories and new socio-medical landscapes in HIV prevention. University of Sussex 2016
  • Beyond the Binaries. Feminist Futures: Critical Perspectives on the Fourth Wave. Queen Mary, University of London 2015
  • Vaginal Spaces of Disattunement. Spaces of Attunement: Life Matter & the Dance of Encounters, Department of Environmental Humanities. Cardiff University 2015
  • The Affect of Rape: an agential realist account of bodily integrity. Affect, Embodiment, Politics: 2nd Critical Social Psychology Conference. Barcelona 2015
  • Entanglements of Matter and Meaning. New Methodologies for Interdisciplinarity in HIV and Related Health Fields. Goldsmiths, University of London 2014
  • Imaginings of Empowerment and the Biomedical Production of Bodies. Global Health and Science and Technology Workshop, Department of Health, Ethics and Society. University of Maastricht, Holland 2013
  • The Promise of Vaginal Microbicides: configurations of women’s empowerment in a time of HIV. Medical Research Council, Clinical Trials Unit (HIV Prevention Team). London 2013
  • Efficacious Objects and Sexual Bodies within Vaginal Microbicide Clinical Trials. 2nd International HIV Social Science and Humanities Conference, Paris 2013
  • The Development of Vaginal Microbicides: biomedical HIV prevention as a configuration of women’s empowerment. BodyStorming. The Center of the Body, Goldsmiths, University of London 2013
  • Imagining a Feminist Body within the Biomedical Development of Vaginal Microbicides. Sensible Flesh: Rethinking the Body in the 21st Century.  King’s College, University of London 2012
  • A Performative Approach to Vaginal Microbicides: poststructural feminist questions for biomedical development. Locating the Social: 1st International HIV Social Science and Humanities Conference, Durban, South Africa 2011

Contact details

Room 507, 30 Russell Square
Department of Psychosocial Studies
Birkbeck, University of London
London WC1B 5DT