Political imagination with(in) and beyond the state

The Longer Histories of Statephobia

Covid-19 has brought the role of the state into full visibility. It has both highlighted the unequal effects of the dismantling of welfare state regimes and appeals for a ‘return of the state’ to the provision of public goods such as healthcare. Can this moment of crisis provide opportunities for a new politics?

Next to highlighting the role of the state, the pandemic has also made visible how critique of the state has been in large part monopolized by the new Right. Since the 1990s, the European Left has been caught between an embrace of neoliberal policies and a nostalgia for the welfare state, leaving little space for re-imagining the state otherwise. Can this moment of crisis provide opportunities for a new politics able to overcome the state/anti-state dichotomy that emerged with full force during the past pandemic year? Can we identify new emerging ‘arts of government’ in a range of experiments with autonomy and the commons that might refound the notion of the public – and that often confound right-left divides? This second seminar in the Statephobia series continues the discussion initiated in the first instalment, aired April 29th.

About the speakers

Nikita Dhawan is Professor of Political Science and Gender Studies at the University of Gießen, Germany. Her publications include: Impossible Speech: On the Politics of Silence and Violence (2007); Decolonizing Enlightenment: Transnational Justice, Human Rights and Democracy in a Postcolonial World (ed., 2014); Global Justice and Desire: Queering Economy (co-ed., 2015); Negotiating Normativity: Postcolonial Appropriations, Contestations and Transformations (co-ed., 2016); Difference that makes no Difference: The Non-Performativity of Intersectionality and Diversity (ed., 2017) and Reimagining the State: Theoretical Challenges and Transformative Possibilities (co-ed., 2019). She received the Käthe Leichter Award in 2017 for outstanding achievements in the pursuit of women’s and gender studies and in support of the women’s movement and the achievement of gender equality.

Rebecca Bryant is professor of Cultural Anthropology at Utrecht University and an anthropologist of politics and law. Her work has focused on ethnic conflict and displacement, border practices, post-conflict reconciliation, and contested sovereignty on both sides of the Cyprus Green Line and in Turkey. Her most recent books are The Anthropology of the Future (co-authored with D. M. Knight, Cambridge University Press, 2019); Sovereignty Suspended: Building the So-Called State (co-authored with Mete Hatay, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020); and The Everyday Lives of Sovereignty: Political Imagination Beyond the State (co-edited with Madeline Reeves, Cornell University Press, 2021). Her most recent work concerns the futural imaginations of Syrian refugee youth in Turkey, and she is currently completing a co-authored book manuscript, Lives in Limbo: Syrian Youth Turkey, to be published by Berghahn Books.

Chiara De Cesari is Associate Professor of European Studies and Cultural Studies at the University of Amsterdam. She is the author of Heritage and the Cultural Struggle for Palestine (2019, Stanford University Press), and co-editor of Transnational Memories (de Gruyter, 2014, with Ann Rigney) and European Memory in Populism (Routledge, 2019, with Ayhan Kaya). Her most recent NWO-Vidi project explores the globalization of contemporary art and forms of creative institutionalism and statecraft.

Matthijs Lok (moderator) is a senior lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Amsterdam. Recent works include Eurocentrism in European History and Memory (2019, with Robin de Bruin & Marjet Brolsma), The Politics of the Moderation (2019, with Ido de Haan) and Cosmopolitan Conservatisms. Countering Revolution in transnational networks, ideas and movements (2021, with Friedemann Pestel & Juliette Reboul). Together with colleagues from Utrecht University, he also produces a historical podcast: https://blik-achteruit.nl/

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