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26th October 2021, 15.00-18.00: Birth of the State - The Place of the Body in Crafting Modern Politics with Charlotte Epstein

A lecture with associate professor Charlotte Epstein

Date: 26th of October 2021
Time: 15:00 – 18:00
Location: U82, SDU

This event will also be livestreamed on CWS' YouTube channel:

Charlotte Epstein will be speaking about her new book, which uses the body to peel back the layers of time and taken-for-granted ideas about the two defining political forms of modernity, the state and the subject of rights. It traces, under the lens of the body, how the state and the subject mutually constituted each other all the way down, by going all the way back, to their original crafting in the seventeenth century. It considers two revolutions. The first, scientific, threw humanity out of the centre of the universe, and transformed the very meanings of matter, space, and the body; while the second, legal and political, re-established humans as the centre-point of the framework of modern rights.

The book analyses the fundamental rights to security, liberty, and property respectively as the initial knots where the state-subject relation was first sealed. It develops three arguments, that the body served to naturalise security; to individualise liberty; and to privatise property. Covering a wide range of materials - from early modern Dutch painting, to the canon of English political thought, the Anglo-Scottish legal struggles of naturalization, and medical and religious practices - it shows both how the body has operated as history's great naturaliser, and how it can be mobilised instead as a critical tool that lays bare the deeply racialised and gendered constructions that made the state and the subject of rights. The book returns to the origins of constructivist and constitutive theorising to reclaim their radical and critical potential.

Charlotte Epstein is associate professor in the department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney, and currently at the Danish Institute for International Studies researching for a new Carlsberg Foundation-funded book project, Decolonizing Political Action. She has published widely in the fields of international relations, political theory, surveillance studies and global environmental politics.

Read more about Charlotte Epstein on her university webpage.

Purchase her book Birth of the State here.

Editing was completed: 12.10.2021