Encounters with the State

Members of this reading group will grapple with the contested and elusive concept of ‘the state.’ Our goal is to generate discussions about concrete manifestations of the state, including physical and institutional spaces (e.g. public squares, monuments); decisions about urban planning and accessibility; encounters with the legal and penal systems; small-scale interactions with state officials and bureaucrats (e.g. border agents, child protective services); as well as encounters from ‘within’ (in particular how officials and bureaucrats can come to inhabit a double role as both executor and subject of state power).

Such discussion provides be a useful vantage point from which to examine how the concept of the state both (1) operates (or should operate) within and between our respective disciplines, and (2) intersects with public uses of the concept and with current geopolitical developments.

We will meet for two hours on one Tuesday per month (4.30pm — 6.20pm), beginning in October. Participants will read either one whole text, or excerpts from a small number. Each session will be organized around one kind of state institution, site of interaction, or form of interaction. All are welcome.

Reading suggestions are tentative. For details and to RSVP please contact Isi Litke ([email protected]), Charles de la Cruz ([email protected]), or Ben Hofmann ([email protected]).

Fall semester

  • 10 October — Bureaucrats and Bureaucracies (Gogol’s “The Government Inspector”; The Ferguson Report: DOJ Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department; Bernardo Zacka, When the State Meets the Street),  4:30-6pm 126 Corwin Hall
  • 14 November — Public Spaces (Bonnie Honig, Public Things; Davina Cooper, Everyday Utopias)
  • 5 December — Borders, Movements, and Statelessness (Hannah Arendt, “We Refugees”; Zygmunt Bauman, Strangers at Our Door; Anna Seghers, Transit)
  • 9 January — The Carceral (Simone Browne, Dark Matters; Franz Kafka, “Before the Law”; Solmaz Sharif, Poems)

Spring semester

  • 13 February — TBD
  • 13 March — TBD
  • 10 April — TBD
  • 8 May — TBD