people / faculty / Pheng Cheah


Pheng Cheah

PhD, Cornell, LLB, University of Sydney
7310 Dwinelle Hall
Research Interests
18th-20th century continental philosophy and critical theory
Postcolonial theory and anglophone postcolonial literatures
World literature
Theories of globalization and transnationalism
Cosmopolitanism and nationalism
Human rights
Social and political thought
Feminist theory
Contemporary Chinese film


I am currently completing a book on theories of the world and world literature from the postcolonial South in an era of global financialization.  I am also finishing work on two collections of essays.  The first collection is on the changing nature of power in contemporary globalization and the role of culture and comparison in these transformations with special reference to the postcolonial world.  The second volume is an attempt to rethink materialism in the current global conjuncture that draws on  the exploration of the topoi of deterritorializing flows, hospitality, rights, instrumentality and life in the writings of Kant, Hegel, Marx, Hannah Arendt, Foucault, Deleuze and Derrida. Also in progress is a book on globalization and world cinema from the three Chinas that focuses on the films of Jia Zhangke, Tsai Ming-liang and Fruit Chan and includes interviews with the three directors.


Books and Special Issues of Journals

Pheng Cheah, Inhuman Conditions: On Cosmopolitanism and Human Rights (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006). Chinese translation planned, Peking University Press.

Pheng Cheah, Spectral Nationality: Passages of Freedom from Kant to Postcolonial Literatures of Liberation (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003).

Pheng Cheah and Suzanne Guerlac (eds.), Derrida and the Time of the Political (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009).  Abridged Japanese translation forthcoming, Iwanami Shoten.

Pheng Cheah and Jonathan Culler (eds.), Grounds of Comparison: Around the Work of Benedict Anderson (New York: Routledge, 2003).  Expanded version of special issue of Diacritics, Vol. 29, no. 4, Winter 1999 (published Fall 2000).

Pheng Cheah and Elizabeth Grosz (eds.), Irigaray and The Political Future of Sexual Difference, special issue of Diacritics, Vol. 28, no. 1, Spring 1998.

Pheng Cheah and Bruce Robbins (eds.), Cosmopolitics - Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998)

Selected Journal Articles and Chapters in Edited Collections

“Entering the World from an Oblique Angle: On Jia Zhangke as an Organic Intellectual,” in Baidik Bhattacharya and Neelam Srivasta (eds.), The Postcolonial Gramsci (Routledge, forthcoming).

“Acceptable Uses of People,” in Mark Goodale (ed.), Human Rights Reconsidered (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

"Of Other Worlds to Come," in Sven Trakulhun and Ralph Weber (eds.), Modernities: Sites, Concepts and Temporalities in Asia and Europe (forthcoming SUNY Press).

"Power over Life/Power of Life: What is a Non-organizational Politics?" in Alain Brossat, Yuan-Horng Chu, Rada Ivekovic and Joyce C.H. Liu (eds.), Biopolitics, Ethics and Subjectivation (Paris: Éditions l'Harmattan, 2011).

"Capitalizing Humanity: The Global Disposition of People and Things," in Shelly Feldman, Charles Geisler, and Gayatri Menon (eds.), Accumulating Insecurity: Violence and Dispossession in the Making of Everyday Life (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011), pp. 298-319.

"Female Subjects of Globalization," in Anne-Emmanuelle Berger and Eleni Varikas (eds.), Genre et Postcolonialité. Approches transnationales contemporaines (Paris: Editions des Archives Contemporaines, 2010).

“Global Dreams and Nightmares: The Underside of Hong Kong as a Global City in Fruit Chan's Hollywood, Hong Kong,” in Kam Louie (ed.), Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010), pp. 193-211.

“Necessary Strangers: Law’s Hospitality in the Age of Global Migration,” in Austin Sarat, Lawrence Douglas and Martha Umphrey (eds.), Law and the Stranger (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2010).

“The Material World of Comparison,” in special issue of New Literary History on comparison, edited by Rita Felski and Susan Stanford Friedman, Vol. 40, no. 3 (Fall 2009), pp. 523-545, published 2010.

“Non-Dialectical Materialism,” in special issue of Diacritics on Derrida and Democracy, Vol. 38, nos. 1-2 (Spring-Summer 2008), pp. 143-157, published 2009.  Revised version in Samantha Frost and Diana Coole (eds.) New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), pp. 70-91.

“Introduction: Derrida and the Time of the Political” (with Suzanne Guerlac), in Derrida and the Time of the Political (eds.), Pheng Cheah and Suzanne Guerlac (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009), pp. 1-37.

“The Untimely Secret of Democracy,” in Derrida and the Time of the Political (eds.), Pheng Cheah and Suzanne Guerlac (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009), pp. 74-96.

“What is a World?  On World Literature as World-Making Activity,” special issue of Daedalus: Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on cosmopolitanism, Vol. 137, no. 3 (Summer 2008), pp. 26-38.

“Cultures and Religions of Liberalism in a Global Era,” in David Held and Henrietta Moore (eds.), Cultural Politics in a Global Age: Uncertainty, Solidarity and Innovation (Oxford: One World Publications, 2008), pp. 140-147.

“Fantasies of ‘Chinese-ness’ and the Traffic in Women from Mainland China to Hong Kong in Fruit Chan’s Durian Durian,” in Helen Siu (ed.), Merchants' Daughters:  Women, Commerce, and Regional Culture in South China (Hong Kong University Press, 2009), pp. 259-272.  Revised version of “Another Diaspora: Chineseness and the Traffic in Women in Fruit Chan’s Durian Durian”, in Andrea Riemenschnitter and Deborah L. Madsen (eds.), Diasporic Histories: Cultural Archives of Chinese Transnationalism (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2009), pp. 159-69.

“Crises of Money,” special issue of Positions: East Asia Culture Critique on War, Capital, Trauma, Vol. 16, no. 1 (Spring 2008), pp. 189-219.  Revised version in Francoise Lionnet and Shih Hsu-mei (eds.), The Creolization of Theory (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011), pp. 83-111.

“Biopower and the New International Division of Reproductive Labor,” Boundary 2, Vol. 34, no. 1 (Spring 2007), pp. 79-113.  Longer version in ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ – The History of an Idea, (ed.) Rosalind Carmel Morris (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), pp. 179-212.

“Humanity in the Field of Instrumentality,” PMLA, Vol. 121, no. 5 (October 2006), pp. 1552-57.

“Cosmopolitanism,” special issue on Problematizing Global Knowledge, (eds.) Mike Featherstone, Couze Venn, Ryan Bishop and John Phillips, Theory Culture and Society, Vol. 23, nos. 1-2 (Feb-April 2006), pp. 486-96.

“The Future of Nationalist Appropriation,” Accelerating Possession: Global Futures of Property and Personhood, (eds.) Bill Maurer and Gabriele Schwab (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), pp. 45-75.

“Living Time: A Response to Frederic Worms and Keith Ansell-Pearson,” section on ‘Bergson: Thinking in Time,’ Modern Language Notes, Vol. 120, no. 5 (Winter 2005), pp 1128-32.

“Obscure Gifts: On Jacques Derrida,” special issue on Derrida’s Gift, (eds.) Elizabeth Weed and Ellen Rooney, differences, Vol. 16, no. 3 (Fall 2005), pp. 41-51.

“Human Freedom and the Technic of Nature: Culture and Organic Life in Kant’s Third Critique,” differences, special issue on More Humanism, Vol. 14, no. 2 (Summer 2003), pp. 1-26.

“‘Affordance,’ or Vulnerable Freedom,” Philosophy and Social Criticism, Vol. 28, no. 4 (July 2002), pp. 451-62.  Reprinted in Renée J. Heberle and Benjamin Pryor (eds.), Imagining Law: On Drucilla Cornell (Albany: SUNY Press, 2008), pp. 201-212.

“The Rationality of Life.  On the Organismic Metaphor of the State,” Radical Philosophy, no. 112, March/April 2002, pp. 9-24.

“Universal Areas: Asian Studies in a World in Motion,” Traces, Vol. 1, no. 1, 2001, 37-70 (also in Korean, Japanese and Chinese translations).  Abridged version in John Hawley and Revathi Krishnaswamy (eds.), The Postcolonial and the Global (University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 54-68.

“Grounds of Comparison,” Diacritics, Vol. 29, no. 4, Winter 1999, 3-18.

“Chinese Cosmopolitanism in Two Senses and Postcolonial National Memory,” Cosmopolitan Geographies: New Locations of Literature and Culture.  Selected Papers of the English Institute, (ed.), Vinay Dharwadker (New York: Routledge, 2000), 133-169.  Chinese translation in Shijie (Horizons, Beijing), no. 4, 2001, 37-53.  Also reprinted as Morrison Library Lecture, U.C. Berkeley.

“Spectral Nationality: The Living-on of the Postcolonial Nation in Neocolonial Globalization,” in Boundary 2, Vol. 26, no. 3, Fall 1999, 225-252.  Also in Becomings: Explorations in Time, Memory and Futures, (ed.), Elizabeth Grosz (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999), 176-200.

“Of Being-Two,” (with Elizabeth Grosz), Diacritics, Vol. 28, no. 1, Spring 1998, 3-18.  Also in Futures of Critical Theory: Dream of Difference, (ed.), Michael Peters (New Jersey: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003), 169-186.

“Given Culture: Rethinking Cosmopolitical Freedom in Transnationalism,” Boundary 2, Vol. 24, no. 2, Summer 1997, 157-197. Also in Cosmopolitics - Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation, (eds.), Pheng Cheah and Bruce Robbins (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), 290-328.

“The Cosmopolitical—Today,” Introduction to Cosmopolitics - Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation, (eds.), Pheng Cheah and Bruce Robbins (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), 20-41.  Also in Public Policy (the Philippines), special issue on Globalization in Turmoil, no. 2, 1998 (January-March), 106-130.

“Posit(ion)ing Human Rights in the Current Global Conjuncture,” Public Culture, Vol. 9, no. 2, Winter 1997, 233-266.  Also in Transnational Asia Pacific: Gender, Culture and the Public Sphere, (eds.), Shirley Lim, Wimal Dissanayake and Larry Smith (University of Illinois Press, 1999), 11-42.



Keynote, "Negative Cosmopolitanisms: Abjection, Power and Biopolitics", University of Alberta, Canada, 11-13 October, 2012.

Keynote, "On Cosmopolitanism and Southeast Asia: Imaginings, Mediation and Movement", Australian National University, 16-18 February, 2012.

Keynote, Endowed and Plenary Lectures (last five years)

"The Physico-Material Bases of Cosmopolitanism"

  -  Conference on "The Idea of Cosmopolitanism: Interdisciplinary Dialogues," University of Utrecht, Netherlands, December 3-4, 2009.

  - Noted Scholars Lecture on Cosmo/Politics, Center for Cross-Faculty Inquiry in Education, University of British Columbia, Canada, March 11, 2010.

"Of Other Worlds To Come"

  - Keynote Address, Conference on "Varieties of Modernity? Possibilities and Limitations of a Research Perspective on Asia and Europe," University of Zurich, Switzerland, September 8-10, 2009.

  - Noted Scholars Lecture on Cosmo/Politics, College of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of British Columbia, March 12, 2010.

"Power over Life/Power of Life: The Limits of a Non-organizational Politics"

- Keynote Lecture, Conference on "Biopolitics, Ethics, Subjectivation: Questions on Modernity," Graduate Institute for Social Research and Cultural Studies, National Chiaotung University, Taiwan, June 24-28, 2009

"Capitalizing Humanity: The Global Disposition of People and Things"

-- Center for Women's and Gender Research, "Theory Now!" 10th Anniversary Symposium, University of Bergen, Norway, May 14-15, 2009.

"To Open: Hospitality and Alienation"

- Keynote address, "The Conditions of Hospitality: Symposium on the Literature, Politics and Philosophy of Hospitality," September 8-9, 2008, Stavanger, Norway, in celebration of Stavanger as European capital of culture, 2008.

"Rethinking Power in Postcolonial Globalization"

- Keynote address, 14th Annual Conference of the North American Taiwan Studies Association, "Translating the Political, Re-envisioning the Social: What's the Next Turn for Taiwan?" University of Washington, June 27-29, 2008

"Female Subjects of Globalization"

- Keynote, Fifth Annual Feminist Theory Workshop, Duke University, March 18-19, 2011

"What is a World?  World Literature in a Postcolonial Frame"

  - Lora Romero Memorial Lecture, Department of English, Stanford University, May 18, 2006.

  - Keynote address, 32nd annual Florida State University conference on Film and Literature, "Cosmopolitanism: Thinking Beyond the Nation," February 1-4, 2007.

 - Keynote, Conference on "Cosmopolitan Cultures, Cosmopolitan Histories," University of Wisconsin, Madison, March 2-3, 2007.

 - Keynote, Conference on 'Modernity and Locality: Discrete Spaces in Global Culture," State University of New York, Binghamton, October 12-13, 2007.

  - Keynote, Conference on "Postcolonialism and the Hit of the Real," New York University, March 6-8, 2008.

  - Opening plenary, conference on "Multiplicities: World Cinema, Globalised Media and Cosmopolitanism," Research Institute for Cosmopolitan Cultures, Manchester University, United Kingdom, June 16-17, 2008.

"Necessary Strangers: Law's Hospitality in the Age of Global Migration"

  - Keynote, conference on 'Pacific Interactions: The USA and the Chinese Diaspora in Historical Perspective,' University of Hannover, Germany, November 16-18, 2006.

  - The 2009 Dunbar Lecture, Department of Philosophy, Millsaps College, March 24, 2009.

"Crises of Money"

  - Keynote, 'Globalization and Resistance,' Purdue University, March 3-5, 2006.

  - Keynote, Conference on Frantz Fanon and Race, UC Santa Cruz, April 29, 2006.