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Dr Annette-Carina van der Zaag

Lecturer in Sexuality and Social Theory.


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 centre around feminist/queer theory 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 on the cusp of feminist/queer theory and social science in HIV. In particular, my research involves feminist theorisations of female-initiated HIV prevention methods, including vaginal microbicides and PrEP. Theoretically my research is situated in feminist neomaterialism and posthumanism, where I am interested in the various materialisations and sexualisations of bodies and psychic life worlds in constitutive relation with science and technology.
  • 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 feminist 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 left for critical encounters with sex/gender relations including their racial and postcolonial dimensions in these posthuman terrains?
  • My current research project Sexual Differences and Inventive Futures: The Problem of Female-Initiated PrEP continues my interest in female-initiated HIV prevention and feminist neomaterialisms. This project makes a critical intervention into debates surrounding women and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) - a pill containing antiretroviral medications used to prevent HIV infection. Synthesising feminist theory on sexual difference, materiality and futurity, the project’s main objective is to provide a novel conceptual framework through which to engage the body, sexuality and subjectivity in relation to this nascent technology.
  • Alongside my academic work I ran my own business in custom corsetry and costumes for over 10 years. Recently I have stopped working on commission to develop my art practice in textile and sculpture. This currently involves the creation of wearable sculpture exploring entanglements of sexuality and blackness.

Research interests

  • Feminist theory; queer theory; postcolonial theory; posthumanism; Science and Technology Studies; (new/neo) materialism; the body; sexuality; pornography; HIV/AIDS; health and illness


  • I am currently the Module Convenor for the 2nd year BA Psychosocial Studies modules Sexuality and Social Theory and conduct the BA dissertation workshops in Spring term. Furthermore, I am the interim Programme Director for the BA Psychosocial Studies for the Spring term 2017/18


  • I currently supervise students who are working on: feminist theory, queer theory, sexuality, pornography, race 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 (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.

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


  • 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

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


Contact details

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