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Dr Annette van der Zaag

  • Research


    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

    Research overview

    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.

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    Current doctoral researchers



    Teaching modules

    • Theories and Sites of the Psychosocial (PSSL040S7)
    • Independent Research Module (SSPA085D7)
    • Psychoanalysis and Social Theory (SSPA092S5)
    • Sexuality (SSPA093H5)
    • Dissertation BA Psychosocial Studies (SSPA111D6)
  • Publications