Alia Al-Saji


Associate Professor

Office: Leacock 932

Tel:(514) 398-5169


Email: [at] (Alia al-saji)

Alia Al-Saji has a PhD in Philosophy from Emory University (2002), following an MA in Philosophy from K. U. Leuven (1995) and a Bachelor of Arts & Science (McMaster University, 1993).  She has taught at McGill since 2002.  Her work brings together and critically engages 20th century phenomenology and French philosophy, on the one hand, and critical race and feminist theories, on the other.  Running through her research is an abiding concern for questions of time and embodiment, the intersection of which she seeks to philosophically elaborate.

Al-Saji’s research has been supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and Le fonds de recherche du Québec en société et culture.  In 2009, she was awarded a fellowship at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France, and since 2009, she has been a fellow at the Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas (IPLAI) at McGill University.  She has been awarded a fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Study in Durham University for fall 2012.

Al-Saji has served on the executive committee of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP), the second largest philosophical association in North America (2009-2012).  She is currently a co-editor of the Symposia on Gender, Race and Philosophy and the Feminist Philosophy section editor of Philosophy Compass.


Al-Saji’s research traces two interrelated trajectories.  The first trajectory explores questions of embodiment, memory and intersubjectivity in terms both of affectivity and perception.  She aims to think intersubjective relations in temporal terms, drawing on the philosophies of Henri Bergson and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

In the second trajectory, Al-Saji develops a phenomenology of what has been called “cultural racism”.  She offers a feminist analysis of representations of Muslim women in contemporary Western contexts by questioning the ways in which race and gender are at play in attitudes toward the Muslim headscarf or “veil”.

Al-Saji is currently completing a book manuscript entitled The Time of Difference: Thinking memory, perception and ethics with Bergson and Merleau-Ponty.  This manuscript not only presents a sustained argument for thinking intersubjectivity temporally, but also brings together her two research trajectories by asking after the ethics and politics of memory and perception. The book draws on phenomenological, feminist and critical-race analyses of objectifying—specifically racializing—ways of seeing in order to understand their limits and the possibilities for “seeing differently”.

Selected Publications

“Creating Possibility: The Time of the Quebec Student Movement.” Theory & Event 15, no. 3 (September 2012). Supplement: “Printemps Érable—Quebec’s Maple Spring of 2012”, ed. Darin Barney, Brian Massumi and Cayley Sorochan.

“When Thinking Hesitates: Philosophy as prosthesis and transformative vision.” The Southern Journal of Philosophy 50, no. 2 (June 2012): 351-61. Special SJP 50th Anniversary Issue: “Continental Philosophy: What and Where Will It Be?”, ed. Ted Toadvine.

“Sartrean Freedom and Bad Faith: Social identities and situations.” Introducing Philosophy for Canadians, ed. Robert C. Solomon & Douglas McDermid (Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 352-6.

“The Racialization of Muslim Veils: A Philosophical Analysis.” Philosophy and Social Criticism 36, no. 8 (October 2010): 875-902.

“Life as Vision: Bergson and the future of seeing differently.” Bergson and Phenomenology, ed. Michael Kelly (Bathingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 148-173.

“Bodies and Sensings: On the Uses of Husserlian Phenomenology for Feminist Theory.” Special Issue on Phenomenology and Feminism, ed. Sara Heinämaa and Lanei Rodemeyer, Continental Philosophy Review 43, no. 1 (2010): 13-37.

“White Normality, or Racism against the Abnormal: Comments on Ladelle McWhorter’s Racism and Sexual Oppression in Anglo-America.” Symposia on Gender, Race and Philosophy, 6, no. 1 (2010).

“A Phenomenology of Critical-Ethical Vision: Merleau-Ponty, Bergson, and the question of seeing differently.” Chiasmi International: Publication trilingue autour de la pensée de Merleau-Ponty 11 (Paris: Librarie Philosophique J. Vrin, 2009): 375-398.

“Muslim Women and the Rhetoric of Freedom.” Constructing the Nation: A Race and Nationalism Reader, ed. Mariana Ortega and Linda Martín Alcoff. Albany: State University of New York Press (SUNY series in Philosophy and Race), 2009, pp. 65-87.

“An absence that counts in the world: Merleau-Ponty’s later philosophy of time in light of Bernet’s ‘Einleitung’.” Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, vol. 40, no. 2, May 2009, pp. 207-227.

“Voiles racialisés : La femme musulmane dans les imaginaires occidentaux.” Les ateliers de l’éthique: la revue du CRÉUM , vol. 3 no. 2, Automne/Autumn 2008: Is Feminism Just for Feminists?/Le féminisme n’intéresserait-il que les féministes? Numéro dirigé par Marguerite Deslauriers et Monique Lanoix. This article may be viewed online HERE. To hear the Radio-CRÉUM emission with an interview of the author:HERE.

“‘A Past Which Has Never Been Present’: Bergsonian Dimensions in Merleau-Ponty’s Theory of the Prepersonal.” Research in Phenomenology, vol. 38, issue 1, February 2008, pp. 41-71.

“The Temporality of Life: Merleau-Ponty, Bergson, and the Immemorial Past.” The Southern Journal of Philosophy, vol. XLV, Summer 2007, pp. 177-206. This article may be viewed online HERE.

“Vision, Mirror and Expression: The Genesis of the Ethical Body in Merleau-Ponty’s Later Works.” Interrogating Ethics: Embodying the Good in Merleau-Ponty, eds. James Hatley, Janice McLane and Christian Diehm. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2006, pp. 39-63.

“Bergson’sche Spuren in Sartres Philosophie: Emotion und Negation.” Über Sartre: Perspektiven und Kritiken, hrsg. von Thomas R. Flynn, Peter Kampits und Erik M. Vogt. Wien: Verlag Turia + Kant, 2005, 17-54.

“The Memory of Another Past: Bergson, Deleuze and a new theory of time.” Continental Philosophy Review, Vol. 37, no. 2, 2004, pp. 203-239. This article may be viewed online HERE.

Major Research Grants

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Conference Grant for the conference of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP), entitled “Philosophical Thresholds: Crossings of life and world / Seuils philosophiques: croisements entre vie et monde”, held in Montreal November 4-6, 2010.

SSHRC Standard Research Grant (PI) for the project entitled “Vision, race, and ethics: a phenomenological investigation of racializing perception.” McGill University, 2009-2012.

SSHRC Standard Research Grant for the project entitled “Gender and Philosophical Conceptions of Sexual Difference and of Embodiment.” Co-authored with Marguerite Deslauriers (PI, McGill University) and Cressida Heyes (U of Alberta). McGill University, 2004-2007.

FQRSC Établissement de nouveaux chercheurs Grant (PI) for the project entitled “Vers une théorie critique de la nature de la sensation:  repenser les concepts du temps et du corps dans la philosophie du xxe siècle.” McGill University, 2003-2006.