Aoife Sadlier

Aoife Sadlier


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Personal profile

Research interests (short)

My key research interests lie in the domains of feminism/postfeminism, embodiment and sexuality.  My research draws on previous training in Psychosocial Studies, whereby my work traverses critical Psychology, Sociology, Psychoanalytic insights, feminist theory (in particular the work of Iris Marian Young) and poststructuralism (especially the work of Judith Butler).  My methodological interests lie in phenomenological qualitative research, especially collective biography and memory work.  In addition, I have a keen interest in the utilisation of visual methods, in particular (i) photo-elicitation (using photos as a stimulus for discussion) and photo-production (creating images as part of the research process, as well as (ii) the usage of media images as tools for discussion, within a discourse analysis framework.

My PhD research interrogates the junctures and disjunctures between disursive representations and women's engagements with asexualities throughout their life spans.  The methodology draws on: (i) a genealogy of female asexualities from 3000 years ago to the present, (ii) my personal diaries and creative writing, and (iii) collective biography work with two groups of women, which will incorporate photo-production techniques (the participants will capture images of objects, spaces/places and people that make them aware of their sexualities).  


Research interests

PhD title

Disrupting disappearances: navigating female asexualities from representations to lived realities.



Professor Anna Reading



ESRC funded PhD studentship.


PhD research

In the early twenty-first century, asexuality has become associated with sexual orientation, being described as a ‘lack’ of sexual attraction.  This thesis contends that such a definition is problematic as it assumes that being sexual is universal and fails to take into account individual preferences.  At this juncture, a study of female asexualities is long overdue.  Firstly, virtually nothing has been written on the topic.  Secondly, the socio-historical context surrounding female sexuality has radically changed in the last forty years.  With the rise of a postfeminist sensibility, where women seemingly desire their own sexual objectification, asexual-identified women are at risk of being reduced to essences of frigidity or chasteness, whilst the possibility of new female subjectivities is being diminished.  Thirdly, this study focuses solely on women, as female bodily agency is largely constrained within heteronormative spaces.  Whilst heteronormative culture is constraining for men, its effects are not as marked as for women, due to deeply ingrained patriarchal structures.  This thesis will therefore give women a space to speak of their sexualities on their own terms, whilst celebrating the multiple possibilities this offers.


Drawing on a critical poststructuralist and phenomenological approach, this study will examine the junctures and disjunctures between discursive representations of female asexualities and women’s engagements with asexualities throughout their life spans.  Taking queer phenomenology as a backdrop, sexuality will be reframed as the lived body’s engagements with its socio-cultural and relational landscapes, looking beyond categorical orientation to the idiosyncrasies of human experience.  This will be accomplished by engaging in a genealogical exploration of female asexualities, drawing on the writer’s self-narrative and creative writing, and engaging in collective biography groups and life history interviews with various women.  Ultimately, the aim is to highlight the embodied moments in which female asexualities are encountered, whilst challenging the univocal representation of ‘asexuality’ as a categorical orientation.


Biographical details


Aoife grew up in Ireland, where from an early age she had a keen interest in music and creative writing.  She began to play the piano at the age of six and the cello at twelve, and won a number of national creative writing competitions.  Equally, Aoife has always been an avid social scientist, where themes related to gender and identity emerged in her early writing, as well as in childhood correspondences, which incorporated creative methodologies. 


Undergraduate studies

Aoife undertook a BMus at the CIT Cork School of Music, Ireland (First Class Honours) and also obtained an LRSM in cello performance from ABRSM.  Aoife’s undergraduate thesis, which was shortlisted for an ‘undergraduate of Ireland’ award, explored the interlinked Jewish/artistic identities of the composer, Arnold Schoenberg.  Through the lens of his musical works, his political writings and theories of identity (Giddens 1991), it was suggested that Schoenberg manipulated his Jewish identity to enhance his artistic persona.


MA research

In September 2011, Aoife moved to London to undertake an MA in Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck, University of London, from which she graduated with a Distinction.  Aoife’s MA research explored female identity and its salient connection with the body.  Semi-structured interviews were conducted, incorporating photo-elicitation and created self-portraiture.  The study found that women experience a sense of loss in relation to their selves and bodies, consolidated by cultural constructions of gender, the visual methods exposing themes of gender performativity hidden within the verbal narratives. 


Voluntary activities

In November 2011, Aoife trained as a group facilitator for the British Eating Disorders Association (BEAT).  From June to July 2011, she volunteered with Art Relief International in Thailand, where she planned and implemented art workshops for Burmese refugees, children with cerebral palsy and victims of sex trafficking (see for a workshop I created).  Aoife was also part of an MTV Exit event to raise awareness of human trafficking.


From September 2010 to June 2011, Aoife was involved in the 'What's the Story?' project in St. Finbarr's Hospital, Cork.  She used music as a tool of reminiscence for the elderly residents, also conducting/transcribing interviews.


Teaching experience:

Aoife teaches cello, piano and music theory to people of all ages.  From January to march 2015 she will be teaching on the 'Research Approaches' module, as part of the MA programme in CMCI.



As well as her interests in music, art and creative writing, Aoife is a zumba enthusiast. She also enjoys travelling widely and experiencing new cultures and foods.  As well as her PhD thesis, Aoife has ideas for a travel memoir and a novel, which she hopes to bring to fruition in the years following her PhD work.




  • ESRC PhD studentship (ongoing).
  • August 2011 – shortlisted for an ‘undergraduate of Ireland’ award, Modern Cultural Studies category.
  • The ‘Above and Beyond’ award, CIT, Cork School of Music, Ireland.
  • September 2006-September 2009 – Director’s award for outstanding academic results, CIT, Cork School of Music, Ireland.
  • February 2004 – Limerick City Council bursary for Instrumental Music.




‘Evoking the female 'asexual': narrating the silenced self.’ 31 March 2015.  Talking Bodies (international interdisciplinary conference), University of Chester, United Kingdom.


'Beating the Postfeminist Blues? Female Asexual Identity and the Limits of Political Subversion.' 14 November 2014.  NWSA Conference, 'Feminist Transgressions' (Sponsored session: Rethinking the Nation through Asexuality Studies).  Puerto Rico Convention Centre, San Juan, Puerto Rico.


‘A visual mixed methods study of female identity: unravelling changing perceptions of self and body.’ 27 March 2013.  Talking Bodies (international interdisciplinary conference), University of Chester, United Kingdom.




‘To Iris, in remembrance.’ (2002).  In: Writers’ Week Listowel Winners Anthology 2002.  (Kerry: Writers’ Week Listowel), pp. 18-19.


‘The Paradise Garden.’ (2000).  In: Writers’ Week Listowel Winners Anthology 2000.  (Kerry: Writers’ Week Listowel), pp. 25-26.


Research interests (short)

For a list of my current research outputs please vist my staff profile

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Master of Arts, A visual mixed methods study of female identity: unravelling changing perceptions of self and body., Birkbeck, University of London

Award Date: 1 Jan 2012

Bachelor of Music, Arnold Schoenberg's quest for a Jewish identity: between fantasy, illusion and reality., Cork Institute of Technology, Cork School of Music.

Award Date: 1 Jan 2010


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