States of Violence: Race, Capital and Sovereignty in the COVID-19 Era

22 Oct 2020


A conversation with Etienne Balibar and Mohamad Amer Meziane, moderated by Nadia Abu El-Haj
2020 has already been marked by two major, historical events: COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter. This dialogue is an attempt to determine how political philosophy might help us think about them. In particular, it will probe how the unfolding crisis might force us to rethink our concepts of violence and the political. Does this signal a ‘return’ of the state to the center of politics, or simply its unmasking? How are we to think about violence both before and after the pandemic? How do empire and colonialism still structure the present? To what extent is Islamophobia part of systemic racism and practices of surveillance?

Mohamed Amer Meziane is a philosopher whose current research projects and teaching activities involve IRCPL, the Department of Religion, and the Institute for African Studies. His new research project analyzes the ways in which these imperial transformations are challenged within African spaces. The project questions the boundaries of Africa and the Middle East through the religious, racializing and ecological effects of political geographies. The aim of this project is to try and unfold the contemporary stakes of a systematic critique of these geographies for African theory, from Fanon until today.

Etienne Balibar teaches at Columbia every Fall semester. He is Professor Emeritus of moral and political philosophy at Université de Paris X – Nanterre and Professor Emeritus of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine. He also holds a part-time Anniversary Chair in Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University, London. He has published widely in the areas of epistemology, Marxist philosophy, and moral and political philosophy in general. His works include Lire le Capital (with Louis Althusser, Pierre Macherey, Jacques Rancière, Roger Establet) (1965); The Philosophy of Marx (1995); Spinoza and politics (1998); Politics and the Other Scene (2002); We, the People of Europe? (2003); Equaliberty (2014); Violence and Civility. On the Limits of Political Philosophy (2015); Citizen Subject. Foundations for Philosophical Anthropology (2017); Secularism and Cosmopolitanism (2018).

Nadia Abu El-Haj is Professor in the Departments of Anthropology at Barnard College and Columbia University, and Co-Director of the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia. The recipient of numerous awards, including from the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner Gren Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Harvard Academy for Area and International Studies, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, she is the author of numerous journal articles published on topics ranging from the history of archaeology in Palestine to the question of race and genomics today. Abu El-Haj has published two books: Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society (2001), and The Genealogical Science: The Search for Jewish Origins and the Politics of Epistemology (2012). While Abu El-Haj’s two books to date have focused on historical sciences (archaeology, and genetic history), her third book, tentatively titled Soldier Trauma, The Obligations of Citizenship, and the Forever Wars (Verso, forthcoming) examines the field of (military) psychiatry, and explores the complex ethical and political implications of shifting psychiatric and public understandings of the trauma of American soldiers.

Event Date: 
Thursday, October 22, 2020 - 2:30pm
Sponsored By: 
IRCPL at Columbia
Online - RSVP for login details