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Ben Nolan

Professional Title: 

Graduate Student


Machmer 304


Office Hours: 

Spring 2017: Tuesdays and Thursadays, 1:00 - 2:15 pm or by appointment


B.A. McGill University; M.A. University of Chicago


I am a PhD student in the department and an Amherst Program in Critical Theory fellow. 

My current research is on the politics underlying rights discourses. Modernity/coloniality has seen a radical transformation in dominant understandings of the legitimacy both of rights claims and of their denial. I am interested in the historical processes driving these transformations. In particular, I'm interested in the dynamics by which voices from various peripheries (the global non-West as well as the peripheries internal to the West itself) have been able to contest dominant understandings and contribute to reshaping the meaning of rights, especially in the period from the establishment of the post-WW2 rights regime to the present.

My larger concern is with the question of how to construct a meaningful politics of solidarity across the peripheries of a globalized world in crisis: By what language can such a politics be constructed? My working supposition is that there is promise in the trans-national idioms that have developed around rights discourses, and in particular around the Latinate word "dignity" which now appears ubiquitously in the slogans of social movements the world over but which, in its Roman origins and through most of modern history, was categorically anti-universalistic.

In this work, I've been engaging with literatures concerning the philosophy of history, economic history, coloniality, sovereignty, the politics of translation, legal theory, critical theory, governmentality, technology, non-human animals, and political violence. 


  • Political Science