Location: Babbidge Library, 4th Floor, Room 4/209
Time:  4-5:30pm
Date: See below for the current schedule

The UConn Political Theory Workshop, a UCHI working group, is a venue for political thinkers to present and receive feedback on works-in-progress or recently published work. Our membership is located across a variety of academic disciplines and theoretical orientations. The Political Theory Workshop has been organised by Fred Lee.

The Future of Bad Collectivity

ali-aslam-150x150Ali Aslam (Mount Holyoke)


Axel Honneth's Freedom's Right is an ambitious attempt to identify the conditions necessary for ethical self-realization in order to critique existing societal formations.  For Honneth, human history has been characterized by increasing rationalization, in which reason-giving has become more central to the formation of public will and institutions dedicated to the enlargement of freedom. Yet as Lauren Berlant observes, the attachment to neoliberalized state power can be intensely immediate, affective, and non-deliberative, on the one hand, and injurious, on the other.  This suggests the need for an attention to particular histories of bodily formation and development that are more visceral and affectively oriented than Honneth's description of rationalized public discourse.  In this paper, I examine the potential of "bad collectivities" to educate citizens estranged from democratic practices, traditions, and institutions and whose efforts to communicate with one another resemble aphasia.  Bad collectivities is Ben Lerner's term for forms of collective identification that momentarily transcend the social and technological divisions that isolate and fragment citizens into increasingly privatized circuits of knowledge and experience.  My aim is to articulate the political value of bad collectivities and how they become the basis of more durable collective bodies.

From Trotskyism to Proletarian Democracy: China, 1930s

Peter ZorrowPeter Zarrow (UConn History) 


This paper explores the trajectory of the political thought of Chen Duxiu (1879-1942) through the 1930s.  Chen’s ideas changed dramatically over his lifetime but a utopian vision of true democracy was central to his thought.  He is best known as a co-founder and first general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, and he dismissed democracy as regressive “bourgeois democracy” during the time of his membership in the Party from 1921 to 1929.  However, Chen was a leading advocate of democracy both before the 1911 Revolution and especially in its wake in the 1910s.  And again he returned to the theme of democracy in the 1930s.  This paper focuses on how Chen “returned” to democratic thinking over the course of the 1930s.  I argue that Chen’s conversion to Trotskyism allowed him to make sense of the CCP’s defeat (1927-1928) and stimulated him to rethink revolutionary goals as well as strategies.  Though he eventually abandoned Trotskyism, he did not precisely return to either the liberal or communitarian democracy he had earlier advocated, but rather developed the notion of proletarian democracy.  In Chen’s understanding, democracy was a kind of universal force unfolding through history and realized through class struggle.


Indigenous Refusals of Settler-Capitalist Notions of Precarity and Aging: The Struggle for Indigenous Elsewheres

 Sandy GrandeSandy Grande
Connecticut College


The notion of precarity has emerged as a way of describing the effects of neoliberal policy on the human condition. Though the impact is broad, the precarity instigated by the settler project has been enacted and extracted upon the bodies of the marginalized, and within such communities, the most vulnerable: the sick, the young, the elderly. This paper examines the privatization and commodification of the body as one of the greatest affronts to sovereignty, compelling not only materialist analyses but also those that account for the immaterial – the soul, the sacred. The author begins with an examination of how issues related to end of life care and the question of whether to “live or let die” are constructed through (neo)liberal discourses of personal choice as conditioned by “culture.” Next, it is argued that such discourses serve to obfuscate the a priori role of the capitalist state where the frail and aged can only be viewed as a “crisis” of decreased labor power and increased expenditure; an amortization that has only worsened under neoliberalism. Thus, the aim of the paper is to present Indigenous discourses that situate the problematic of living/being beyond the scope of imperial interest and that are defined by mutuality.

Sandy Grande (Quechua) is a Professor of Education as well as the Director of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE) at Connecticut College. Her research interfaces critical Indigenous theories with the concerns of education. Her highly acclaimed book, Red Pedagogy: Native American Social and Political Thought was recently published in a 10th anniversary edition (2015). She has published in The Journal of Settler Colonial Studies, The Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy, Harvard Educational Review; she also contributed a chapter to Robert Lake and Tricia Kress’ Paulo Freire’s Intellectual Roots (Bloomsbury 2013). In addition to her scholarly work she has provided eldercare for her parents and remains the primary caretaker for her 88 yr. old father.