Political Theory Colloquium 2021-2022

Presenter Name: 
Issac Reed
Presenter title and affiliation: 
Professor of Sociology, UVa
Title of talk: 
The Figure of the King: Ernst Kantorowicz as a Response to Max Weber
Location: 
Virtual
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Date and Time: 
Friday, August 27, 2021 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM
Presenter Name: 
Hana Nasser
Presenter title and affiliation: 
Graduate Student, University of Virginia
Title of talk: 
Punishment and the Revocation of Citizenship
Location: 
Online
Abstract/Description: 
This paper utilizes Foucault’s analysis of modern systems of punishment to analyze the punishment of revoking citizenship. The punishment of revocation does not conform to several criteria of what Foucault deems are necessary features of modern punishment. First, is that punishment is aimed at rehabilitation, and is concerned with targeting the soul of the condemned, with the body acting as an intermediary between the punitive technique and this soul. Second, is Foucault’s contention that modern forms of punishment have a social function in that through confinement, criminals who deviate from the norms of society in their behavior can be better surveilled and their behavior categorized. Third, punishment, according to Foucault, will increasingly become standardized, with the structure of the prison becoming the dominant mode of dispensing punishment. When examined in terms of its social effects, the punishment of revocation has important features of what Foucault outlines are criteria for modern forms of punishment such as its productive and subject constituting effects. In this paper, I argue that elite discourses construct a criminal subject worthy of the punishment of revocation. I further test the limits of the applicability of extending Foucault’s insights about punishment to the revocation of citizenship by investigating the punishment’s trans-national quality.
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Date and Time: 
Friday, September 24, 2021 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Presenter Name: 
Catherine Lu
Presenter title and affiliation: 
Professor, McGill University
Title of talk: 
Representing Humanity: the Role of Museums in Addressing Colonial Alienation
Location: 
Online
Abstract/Description: 
Modern museums of natural history, ethnography, civilization, and/or cultures typically claim to represent humanity, in its unity and diversity. Yet how did such museums come to be the representatives of humanity? And what has shaped the way such museums have represented humanity? These questions point to the heart of major contemporary controversies surrounding modern museums across Europe and North America. I understand the critical scrutiny of modern museums to be sparked by increasing acknowledgement of their colonial origins, and to be sustained by increasing recognition that the legacies of colonialism have afterlives in museums’ custodianship and representations of material culture, which function to reproduce forms of colonial injustice and alienation. Museums are thus sites where contemporary agents fight over the unfinished project of decolonization. In this paper, I aim to clarify what it might mean to decolonize museums, and what decolonization practices aim towards with respect to redressing different forms of colonial alienation.
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Date and Time: 
Friday, October 22, 2021 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Presenter Name: 
Andrew Dilts & Sarah Tyson
Presenter title and affiliation: 
Loyola Marymount University, UC Denver
Title of talk: 
World-building on or with the Land? Learning Anticolonial critique from Beavers and their Blockades
Location: 
Online
Abstract/Description: 
As the Land Back movement gains momentum, making sophisticated and urgent claims that ought not be dismissed, these claims also demand an honest confrontation with how Western political theory conceives of land. As Indigenous thinkers such as Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg) and Glen Sean Coulthard (Yellowknives Dene), have shown in their accounts of grounded normativity, land is not just a location for Indigenous world-building, but also an agentic teacher with political standing. These approaches provide powerful insight into some of the most pressing struggles of our times, including the events of the Standing Rock uprising and the Line 3 protests. Yet dominant traditions in political theory continue to treat land as an inert territory on which politics happens. We examine one theorist in the Western tradition whose iconoclastic approach to political theory has driven much critical work, much of which claims to avoid the pitfalls of abstraction and liberal universalism: Hannah Arendt. We show not only how consequential her understanding of land is to her political theory, but also how it leads her to circumscribe plurality in such a way as to render Indigenous political theory and practice nonsensical, nonpolitical, and therefore a proper target for destruction by political orders that will properly organize the land. Put differently, through attention to land, we show that settler colonialism is central to Arendt’s political theory, and not a mere oversight that can be acknowledged and dismissed. Given Arendt’s influence on critical (and often self-described “left”) approaches to political life, Arendt’s reliance on the ongoing violence of settler-colonialism runs deeper than many theorists have been able to acknowledge. Yet as we explain, critical resources that avoid these pitfalls are both readily available in Indigenous political theory and are directly in service of the broader argument that Land Back, and Indigenous resurgence more generally, present a profound challenge to dominant modes of Western theorizing, even in its critical and heterodox forms.
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Date and Time: 
Friday, November 5, 2021 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Presenter Name: 
Jonathan Havercroft
Presenter title and affiliation: 
Associate Professor, University of Southampton
Title of talk: 
Responding to Riots: A Grounded Normativity Analysis of Recent UK Riot Discourse
Location: 
Online
Abstract/Description: 
Police crackdowns on recent protests by Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion, and mourners of Sarah Everard all involved the use of anti-riot laws to disperse the protests. These cases pose a unique challenge to liberal political theorist’s focus on civil disobedience as the only legitimate means of expressing civil dissent. In all three cases the protestors were resisting structural injustices, yet by declaring these protests unlawful assemblies, the police deprived protestors of their right to public assembly thereby delegitimizing their political demands. While recent political philosophy on civil disobedience has increasingly contested the Rawlsian ideal of civil vs. uncivil protest, far less attention has been played to the crucial role of the police in constituting protests as riots. Under UK public order law, the sole authority to deem a protest an act of unlawful assembly (aka a riot) rests in the judgment of the senior police officer on the site of the demonstration. Beginning from this crucial feature of anti-riot law, this paper asks how the constitution of political protests as riots by the authorities shape the public’s perceptions of the legitimacy of the grievance underlying the protest? And how did protestors resist moral condemnation of their action by public authorities? Without an understanding of how the interpretation of a protest as a riot is itself a site of political struggle, theorists of civil disobedience neglect the crucial power of the police to declare certain political protests illegal, hence illegitimate. Given the UK Government’s proposed Crime, Policing, and Sentencing Bill, with even greater legal restrictions on demonstrations and processions, an analysis of this power is particularly urgent. To answer these questions, this paper will draw upon the method of grounded normative theory. Grounded normative theory incorporates original empirical analysis in “a recursive process of theory development striving for accountability to persons in empirical contexts” (Ackerly, et al., 2021, 3). Specifically, this paper analyzes an archive I have assembled of public statements, testimony, press coverage, and official reports of over 40 riots in the UK from 1996-2021. By focusing on the actual normative justifications protestors and authorities gave for their actions, rather than the abstract arguments of political theorists, this paper will challenge the unhelpful dichotomy between civil and uncivil disobedience, and the narrow focus on violence that grips much of the political theory literature on the topic. Instead this paper will treat riots as political struggles in which protestors resist state authority and through which state authorities constitute political grievances as legitimate or illegitimate.
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Date and Time: 
Friday, November 19, 2021 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Presenter Name: 
Sid Issar
Presenter title and affiliation: 
Post Doc, University of Virginia
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Date and Time: 
Friday, January 28, 2022 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Presenter Name: 
Chiara Cordelli
Presenter title and affiliation: 
Associate Professor, University of Chicago
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Date and Time: 
Friday, February 11, 2022 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Presenter Name: 
Jennifer Rubenstein
Presenter title and affiliation: 
Associate Professor, University of Virginia
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Date and Time: 
Friday, February 25, 2022 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Presenter Name: 
Deva Woodly
Presenter title and affiliation: 
Associate Professor, The New School for Social Research
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Date and Time: 
Friday, March 18, 2022 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Presenter Name: 
Matt Frierdich
Presenter title and affiliation: 
Graduate Student, University of Virginia
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Date and Time: 
Friday, April 1, 2022 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Presenter Name: 
Jared Loggins
Presenter title and affiliation: 
Post Doc, Amherst College
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Date and Time: 
Friday, April 29, 2022 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Academic Year: