Oct 4 - Guest Lecture: "Distributed Sovereignty in the Early American Republic"


On October 4, 2017 Bard College Berlin will host Isaac Ariail Reed (University of Virginia) for the guest lecture "Distributed Sovereignty in the Early American Republic."

This lecture will consider the history of the early American republic—specifically, several violent events in the 1790s—and what it can reveal to us about the particular approach to the construction of modern societies that has emanated from the USA. It explores the way in which the problem of distributed sovereignty in a republic was played out on actual human bodies inscribed by power and subject to different formats of violence, and the logics of race and religion that were embedded in these inscriptions. Crises around war and taxes in the early American republic always involved the formation and mobilization of local militias, whose relationship to the Federal Government was complex and contested. Thus, this talk disrupts the standard narrative in political theory that the American revolution enabled American citizens to replace the idea of “sovereignty” with the idea of “government.” Democratic republics, too, engage in sovereign acts of violence and their representation. Thus, it is only by examining the differences between democratic and autocratic forms of state-society relations that we can understand what was going on with state violence in the early moments of the USA’s formation—and, perhaps, what is going on in the USA today.

Isaac Ariail Reed is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia. He works in social theory, historical sociology, and cultural sociology. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University in 2007, and his B.A. in Mathematics and Sociology & Anthropology from Swarthmore College in 2000. 

Time: Wednesday, October 4, 2017 from 7:30pm
Venue: Bard College Berlin, Lecture Hall
Platanenstrasse 98a, 13156 Berlin (map)
Admission free