Gail Lewis (academic)

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Gail Lewis
London, England
Occupationpsychotherapist, researcher
Academic background
EducationLondon School of Economics
University of Sussex
Alma materOpen University
Academic work
InstitutionsBirkbeck College
Open University
Lancaster University
Main interestsblack feminism; subjectivity; intersectionality

Gail Lewis (born 1951)[1] is a British writer, psychotherapist, researcher, and activist. She is Visiting Senior Fellow in the Department of Gender Studies at the London School of Economics,[2] and Reader Emerita of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck College.[3] She trained as a psychodynamic psychotherapist at the Tavistock Clinic.[2]

Lewis's work is rooted in black feminist and anti-racist struggle, and a socialist, anti-imperialist politics. She was a co-founder of the Organisation for Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD),[4][5] and she was a member of the Brixton Black Women's Group.[6] She was a founding collective editorial member of the Feminist Review.[7] Lewis was interviewed for the oral history project 'Sisterhood and After: The Women's Liberation', archived at the British Library, a project that interviewed "feminists who were at the forefront of the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s and 80s".[8]

Biography and education[edit]

Lewis was born and raised in London, her mother was white and her father was from British Guiana.[1] Her 2009 article 'Birthing Racial Difference: conversations with my mother and others' uses autobiographical references and reflections on psychoanalysis and sociology to "explore how 'race' has operated as structuring principle in Britain since the end of the Second World War", and "mixed-race, mother-child relations".[1][9]

Lewis studied Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics (LSE), followed by an MPhil in Development Studies at the University of Sussex.[10] She passed her PhD in Social Policy with the Open University, and taught in the Open University Social Sciences Faculty between 1995-2004 and 2007-2013.[10]

Lewis is an Arsenal fan.[11]


Lewis was Reader in Psychosocial Studies in the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck College until 2019, having joined the Department in 2013 and served as Assistant Dean between 2015 and 2017.[3] She was Head of Department of the Institute of Women's Studies at Lancaster University.[12]

She has been a visiting Scholar at Clarke University, Massachusetts, USA.[2]

Lewis frequently contributes to feminist discussions and events: she interviewed Hortense Spillers for the ICA in 2018.[12][13]

Lewis has held many roles within academic publishing, including:

  • Co-Editor: European Journal of Women’s Studies (2008 – 2017)
  • Editorial Board: Social Politics (2007 – 2010)
  • Editorial Board: Free Associations (2012 – 2018)
  • Advisory Board: Studies in the Maternal (2010 – 2017)
  • Co-Editor: Feminist Theory (2005 – 07)
  • Editorial Collective: Feminist Review (1990 – 1999)[3]

Activism and contributions to policy and politics[edit]

In 1998, Lewis assisted the legal team (led by solicitors Dieghton and Guedalla) representing Duwaynne Brooks (friend of Stephen Lawrence) in the MacPherson Inquiry into the Murder of Stephen Lawrence. With Professor S. Hall and Dr. E. McLaughlin, Lewis co-authored a submission on racial stereotyping.[3][14]

Lewis gave evidence in 2000 to the 'Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain', published as The Parekh Report. Lewis identified the importance of gender to the future of multi-ethnic Britain and the role of social policy in social inclusion.[3]

Writing for the Guardian for a 2014 International Women's Day piece (which included feminist activists Robin Morgan, Charlotte Raven, Amrit Wilson, Selma James, and Nawal El Saadawi), Lewis reflected on 'intersectionality' and 'infighting' in feminism, writing: "The current debates about intersectionality recall, if not repeat, many of the battles fought between black and Asian feminists (along with their white anti-racist compañeras) and white feminists who felt the struggle was being diverted by the call to pay attention to the inseparability of misogyny, racism, homophobia and class. While there remains much to do to expand an intersectional understanding of the conditions that determine what it means to be a woman and who may be included, without those earlier moments of infighting, feminism today would be all the poorer."[15]


  • In 2019, Lewis was invited to give the Feminist Review Annual Lecture. Lewis's lecture was entitled 'Lies and Disguises: The Racialisation of "Culture" and Child Sexual Exploitation'.[16]
  • In 2019, Lewis was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Tavistock Clinic/Essex University.[2][17]
  • Lewis was recognised as one of the "feminists who were at the forefront of the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s and 80s", and interviewed for the oral history project 'Sisterhood and After: The Women's Liberation', archived at the British Library.[8] Other women interviewed for the project include Anna Davin, Zoe Fairbairns, and Barbara Taylor.[18]

Selected publications[edit]


  • Editor and co-author of Citizenship: personal lives and social policy (Bristol: The Policy Press in Association with the Open University, 2004).
  • Race, Gender, Social Welfare: Encounters in a postcolonial society (Cambridge, Polity Press, 2000).


  • 'Where Might we go if we Dare: moving beyond the "thick, suffocating fog of whiteness"’, (2019) (in conversation with Clare Hemmings) Feminist Theory Vol. 20, Issue 4 pp1–17
  • 'Questions of Presence', (2017) Feminist Review, 117, pp. 1–19
  • 'Of Becoming and Disturbance: one final offering, some thoughts on Familiar Stranger by Stuart Hall' (2017) Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power
  • 'Not by Criticality Alone: contribution to a conversation with Sedgewick and Weigman', (2104) Feminist Theory, vol.15 (1), pp:31-38
  • 'Unsafe Travel: Experiencing Intersectionality and Feminist Displacements', (May 2013) Signs: a journal of women and culture, DOI: 10.1086/669609,
  • 'In the Absence of Truth at Least not the Lie: travels towards self, other and relatedness', (2012) Psychology of Women Section Review (BPS), Spring
  • 'Where Might I Find You': Popular Music and the Internal Space of the Father', (2012) Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society
  • 'Locating the Complexities of Feminist Europe', (2012) European Journal of Women’s Studies, 19 (2)
  • 'Our Memories of the Uprising: the 1980s revisited': report on a meeting,  (2011) History Workshop Journal, Autumn (with Phillip Hatfield and Sarah Evans of the BL)
  • 'The 'Europe' of the European Journal of Women’s Studies', (2010) European Journal of Women’s Studies, 18 (1)
  • 'Celebrating Intersectionality? Debates on a Multi-Faceted Concept in Gender Studies', (2009) European Journal of Women’s Studies, 16 (3)
  • 'Birthing Racial Difference: conversations with my mother and others' (2009); Studies in the Maternal, vol.1 (1), an e-journal, available at
  • 'Racialising Culture is Ordinary', (2007) Cultural Studies 21/6 (Nov), pp. 866–886
  • 'Journeying Toward the Nation(al): Cultural Difference as the Impossibility of Citizenship', (2006) Mobilities, vol. 1(3) November
  • 'Imaginaries of Europe, Technologies of Gender, Economies of Power', (2006) European Journal of Women’s Studies, 13(2), Spring, pp. 87–102
  • 'Cosmopolitan Phantasies and Multicultural Publics', (2004) Treca special issue, Borders, Boundaries, Borderlands.
  • 'Welcome to the Margins: Diversity, Tolerance and Policies of Exclusion', (2005) Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 28, no.3 May special issue, pp. 536–558.
  • 'Contemporary political contexts, changing terrains and revisited discourses', (2005) Ethnic and Racial Studies, 28, no.3, pp. 423 – 444.
  • 'Audre Lorde: Vignette and Mental Conversations', (2005), Feminist Review, 80, pp. 130–145
  • 'Racialising emotional labour and emotionalising racialised labour:anger, fear and shame in social welfare', (2001) in Journal of Social Work Practice, vol.15, no.2, pp. 125–142 (with Y. Gunaratnam)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Lewis, Gail (1 January 2009). "Birthing Racial Difference: conversations with my mother and others". Studies in the Maternal. 1 (1): 1–21. doi:10.16995/sim.112. ISSN 1759-0434.
  2. ^ a b c d Science, London School of Economics and Political. "Gail Lewis". London School of Economics and Political Science. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Dr Gail Lewis – Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck, University of London". Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  4. ^ Bookshop, London Review. "Feminism, Interrupted: A Conversation with Lola Olufemi and Momtaza Mehri | Blog". London Review Bookshop. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  5. ^ "OWAAD". Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  6. ^ "Gail Lewis discusses Brixton Black Women's Group". The British Library. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  7. ^ Evans, Mary (24 February 2016). Transatlantic Conversations: Feminism as Travelling Theory. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-00823-1.
  8. ^ a b "Sisterhood and After: An Oral History of the Women's Liberation Movement". The British Library. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  9. ^ Wetherell, Margaret (13 February 2012). Affect and Emotion: A New Social Science Understanding. SAGE. p. 121. ISBN 978-1-4462-5365-6.
  10. ^ a b "Radio Serpentine - Gail Lewis". Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  11. ^ "CONF18 KEYNOTE: GAIL LEWIS | OPUS". Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  12. ^ a b "ICA | Hortense Spillers in conversation with Gail Lewis". Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  13. ^ "Gail Lewis and Hortense Spillers in conversation at the ICA, London".
  14. ^ Brooks, Duwayne (2006). Steve and Me: My friendship with Stephen Lawrence and the search for justice. A.C.E.D. ISBN 978-0-9552689-0-8.
  15. ^ Morgan, Robin; Raven, Charlotte; Wilson, Amrit; James, Selma; Lewis, Gail; Saadawi, Nawal El (7 March 2014). "International Women's Day: In defence of feminist dissent". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  16. ^ "'Lies and Disguises: The Racialisation of "Culture" and Child Sexual Exploitation' Gail Lewis | 21 March 2019, 5pm, SOAS, London". feminist review. 11 March 2019. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  17. ^ "Tavistock and Portman Graduation 2019". Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  18. ^ "Interviews with members of the Women's Liberation Movement". The British Library. Retrieved 22 April 2020.