Woodrow Wilson

Department of Politics

Political Theory Colloquium 2017

Robert Vitalis

Presentation Title: White World Order, Black Power Politics: Race in the Making of American International Relations

Organization: University of Pennsylvania

Start Date: 10-18-2017

Start Time: 12:30

End Time: 2:00

Location: New Cabell Hall, Room 236

 

Jill Frank

Presentation: Seeing through Lies: Plato’s Republic on How to Avert Tyranny

Organization: Cornell University

Discussant: Ross Mittiga, UVA PhD Candidate in Politics

Start Date: 11-10-2017

Start Time: 2:00

End Time: 3:30

Location: Gibson 296

Details: 

Bio

Focused on the historians, poets, and philosophers of Ancient Greece, Jill Frank seeks resources in the antique past for contemporary political theory and practice. Author of A Democracy of Distinction: Aristotle and the Work of Politics and the forthcoming Poetic Justice: Rereading Plato’s Republic, Frank has published articles on law, judgment, persuasion, property, and human nature, and is currently working on questions of constitution, power, friendship, and lying in Plato, Aristotle, and Machiavelli.

Abstract

Developing capacities to see through a tyrant’s stealth, deception, and lies depends on the capacity to distinguish representation from truth, which, drawing on Republic 10’s account of mimesis, my paper calls mimetic knowledge. Positioned at a third remove from the truth, mimetic representations are false, of course. On the basis of the taxonomy of lies Socrates offers in Republic 2, my paper distinguishes between the tyrant’s lies, which seek to deceive, and mimetic representations, which do not, to bring to appearance the ways in which the Republic positions mimetic knowledge as the key antidote to the lies of the deceiving tyrant. In short, my paper shows that seeing through (remaining unpersuaded by) the tyrant’s lies depends on seeing through (by way of) the falsity of mimetic representation. On this reading, the Republic turns out not to indict mimetic poetry, as is often thought, but rather to bring to light that there can be no anti-tyrannical politics without mimesis. The paper explores the repercussions of this reading for the famous “noble lie” that founds the Republic’s ideal city and the political and social policies enacted and enforced through deception in the name of justice by the ideal city’s philosopher-kings.

 

Ross Mittiga

Presentation Title: What's the Problem with Geo-engineering?

Organization: University of Virginia

Discussant: Christopher Berk, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Political Philosophy, Policy & Law at UVA

Start Date: 10-20-2017

Start Time: 2:00

End Time: 3:30

Location: Gibson 296

Details: 

Abstract

Before long, geo-engineering may offer the most cost-effective option for preventing further harm from climate change. Should this be the case, utilitarians and liberals will have difficulty explaining the sense of aversion and tragedy many feel about intentionally manipulating the climate. Appeals to precaution only partially explain these feelings. For a fuller picture, we need a thicker conception of the proper values and ends of political society. To this end, I examine how classical Buddhist and Greek notions of temperance, justice, and freedom bear on the question of geo-engineering.My intention is not to pronounce on whether geo-engineering is morally “right” or “wrong,” but to highlight reasons for thinking it unattractive in a broader sense, thereby strengthening the case for exhausting conventional, emissions-reductions options.

Bio

Ross Mittiga is a PhD candidate with the Department of Politics, and the co-chair of the American Political Science Association’s Green Politics and Theory Related Group. His primary research examines the politically disruptive potential of global climate change and the principles, policies, and values bearing on efforts to mitigate it. He is scheduled to defend his doctoral thesis, entitled “Before Collapse: A Political Theory of Climate Catastrophe,” on December 1st, 2017.

 

Uday Mehta, Distinguished Professor of Political Science

Presentation Title: Thinking without History: Gandhi on Patience

Organization: The Graduate Center, CUNY

Discussant: Andrew Gates, PhD Candidate, University of Virginia Politics

Start Date: 09-29-2017

Start Time: 2:00

End Time: 3:30

Location: Gibson 296

Details: Uday Singh Mehta is a political philosopher at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His work encompasses a wide spectrum of philosophical traditions and issues, including the relationship between freedom and imagination, liberalism’s complex link with colonialism and empire, and, more recently, war, peace, and nonviolence. He is the author of two books, The Anxiety of Freedom: Imagination and Individuality in the Political Thought of John Locke (1992) and Liberalism and Empire: Nineteenth Century British Liberal Thought (2000), which won the J. David Greenstone Book Award from the American Political Science Association in 2002 for the best book in history and theory. In 2002, he was one of ten recipients of the “Carnegie Scholars” prize awarded to “scholars of exceptional creativity.” He has a forthcoming book on M. K. Gandhi’s critique of political rationality.

He received his undergraduate education at Swarthmore College, where he studied mathematics and philosophy, and he has a Ph.D. in political philosophy from Princeton University. He has held teaching positions at a number of universities, including Princeton, Cornell, MIT, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, and Hull. He came to the Graduate Center in the fall of 2010 from Amherst College, where he was the Clarence Francis Professor in the Social Sciences.

 

Alexander Livingston

Presentation Title: Beyond Birmingham: King, Disobedience, and the Powers of Non-Violence

Organization: Cornell University

Discussant: Greta Snyder (Victoria University of Wellington)

Start Date: 09-15-2017

Start Time: 2:00

End Time: 3:30

Location: Gibson 296

Details: 

Abstract

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ is commonly celebrated as an authoritative statement of the theory civil disobedience. A generation of scholars in the 1960s and 70s drew on King’s essay to codify a normative theory of disobedience as an act of fidelity to constitutional law. However, this liberal discourse of disobedience came to prominence just as King’s own theory of disobedience was shifting in a more radical direction. This essay critically examines King’s late theory of civil disobedience as an experiment in power. Drawing on published and archival sources, it reconstructs King’s Janus-faced conception of power and its role in reconceptualizing non-violent direct action as an illegal but loving act of taking freedom.

Bio

Alexander Livingston is an assistant professor in the Department of Government at Cornell University. His recent book, Damn Great Empires! William James and the Politics of Pragmatism (Oxford, 2016), examines the political thought of William James through the lens of his writings on American imperialism in the Philippines. His writing has appeared in American Political Science Review, Political Theory, Contemporary Political Theory, Theory & Event, Humanity, Philosophy and Rhetoric, and Contemporary Pragmatism. He is currently working on a book on the ethics and politics of non-violence in post-war American social movements.

 

Kevin Duong

Presentation Title: Regicide and Redemptive Violence in the French Revolution

Start Date: 02-17-2017

Start Time: 2:00

End Time: 3:30

Location: Gibson Hall 296

Details: Assistant Professor of Political Studies, Bard College

 

Banu Bargu — Cancelled

Presentation Title: The Silent Exception: Hunger Striking and Lip-Sewing

Start Date: 04-21-2017

Start Time: 2:00

End Time: 3:30

Location: Gibson Hall S296

Details: Professor of Politics, The New School

Discussant: Colin Kielty, PhD candidate in Politics at UVA

Abstract
Border zones and detention centers are often characterized as spaces that concretize a permanent “state of exception” where resistance is deemed unlikely. This paper explores hunger striking and lip-sewing practices of migrants and refugees as a largely neglected form of protest that takes a silent exception from the exception. Focusing on their gesture of a double withdrawal – from food and from speech –, I make the case for an expanded conception of agency that is non-instrumental and expressive. Pursuing an alethurgic analysis, I situate the embodied and violent silence of these protests in Foucault’s problematic of parrhesiastic practice. I examine these practices as processes of subjectivation that unmake and remake the self, call into being parrhesiastic counterpublics, and courageously critique the present.

Bio
Banu Bargu is Associate Professor of Politics at the New School for Social Research. Her main area of specialization is political theory, especially modern and contemporary political thought. Her work draws upon continental and critical theory as well as the history of Western political thought to address contemporary politics, especially resistance practices. Her thematic interests include the body, subjectivity, sovereignty, sacrifice, violence, materialism, and aesthetics. In her research and teaching, Banu Bargu is interested in bringing together political theorization with empirical, ethnographic, and historical research. Her work is situated at the intersection of philosophy, politics, history, and political anthropology, with a regional interest in the Middle East. She is the author of Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons (Columbia University Press, 2014), which received APSA’s First Book Prize given by the Foundations of Political Theory section and was named an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice.

 

Teresa Bejan

Presentation Title: Acknowledging Equality

Start Date: 03-31-2017

Start Time: 2:00

End Time: 3:30

Location: Gibson Hall S296

Details: Professor of Political Theory and Tutorial Fellow in Politics, Oxford University

Discussant: Harrison Frye, PhD candidate in Politics at UVA

Teresa M. Bejan is Associate Professor of Political Theory and a fellow of Oriel College at the University of Oxford. Her research brings perspectives from early modern political thought to bear on questions in contemporary political theory. She is the author of Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration, published in 2017 by Harvard University Press, and her work has also appeared in a variety of edited volumes and journals, including the Journal of PoliticsReview of Politics, and History of Political Thought. Her Ph.D. thesis at Yale University was awarded the 2015 Leo Strauss Award by the American Political Science Association for the best doctoral dissertation in political philosophy, and in 2016 she was elected as the final Balzan-Skinner Fellow in Modern Intellectual History at the University of Cambridge.

Abstract

As the core premise of modern moral and political philosophy, equality commands more allegiance than investigation. The question of its historical emergence as a social and political ideal has generally been set aside in favor of tracing the harmful legacies of different forms of inequality. This paper explores ideas of equality as a political principle, a religious commitment, and a social practice in seventeenth-century England. These fascinating but forgotten visions of ‘equality before egalitarianism’ shed light on the development of a central concept in modern political thought while providing analytical clarity and historical insight sorely missing in contemporary debates. 

 

Harrison Frye

Presentation Title: Freedom without Law

Start Date: 03-17-2017

Start Time: 2:00

End Time: 3:30

Location: Gibson Hall S296

Details: University of Virginia (PhD candidate in Politics)

Discussant: Christopher Berk, post-doctoral fellow in the Program in Political Philosophy, Policy, and Law at UVA

 

Suman Seth

Presentation Title: Pathologies of Blackness: Race-Medicine, Slavery and Abolitionism

Start Date: 03-03-2017

Start Time: 2:00

End Time: 3:30

Location: Gibson Hall 296

Details: Professor of Science & Technology Studies, Cornell University

This presentation will be in a lecture format.

Co-sponsored by Science and Technology Studies, the Global Capitalism Workshop, and the Political Theory Colloquium.

Abstract
This paper explores the relationships between race, medicine, abolitionism, and slavery within the British Empire in the second half of the eighteenth century. While the literature on abolitionist debates is large, comparatively little attention has been paid to the role played—on either side—by medical men. As we will see, however, relationships between medicine, climate, and disease were critical for a debate that turned on who was to blame for the inhuman and near-unimaginable losses of human life due to the ‘seasoning’ or whether black bodies were essential for the cultivation of sugar under a blazing New World sun. Medical men and medical logics were marshaled in arguments over African inferiority and the very question of their humanity. And doctors, surgeons, midwives and others all participated in ongoing discussions over the question of the single or multiple origins of different ‘races.’ As abolitionist critiques provoked changes—more or less cosmetic—doctors became even more thoroughly imbricated within the slave system. From the 1760s one begins to find medical texts written on ways to handle the initial seasoning and later care of slaves. From the 1780s, the writings of men who claimed to administer to the medical needs of thousands of slaves per year were cited, critiqued, and debated in parliamentary sessions devoted to the question of the continuation of the trade within the British Empire. Abolitionists, I show, excoriated planters for the death and suffering—from disease, neglect, and harsh treatment—of the slaves they owned, while some West-Indian doctors used their experiences to offer apologia and negations of precisely these charges.