Advanced Problems in the Rhetoric of Political Theory
158 001 | CCN: 23972
Concepts of Empire
Instructor: IK Udekwu
Date / Time: Mo/We/Fr 12:00pm - 12:59pm
Analyses of “empire” have occupied political theorists since at least the early modern period, with the fate of the (Western) Roman Empire as one particularly cathected site of investigation and speculation. Articulating a coherent logic for “”empire””, however, is not necessarily a straightforward exercise – what specific features would differentiate imperial rule from other political configurations? While the Roman Empire stands as a signature example, many rulers of “”imperial”” Rome exercised political power under the auspices of collections of republican (ostensibly) offices, military commands, and religious titles – a single, explicit legal role for the “”emperor”” was not always in effect. Imperium could also encompass exceptional forms of military authority abroad, with a famous instance being the power of command granted to Pompey (by the Senate in 60 BC) to battle what contemporary governments might call “”unlawful enemy combatants”” – the Mediterranean pirates.
In the present, political thought has increasingly taken up “”empire”” to examine characteristic logics (and illogics) of the colonial dispossession, exploitation, and destruction of non-European peoples. But how does the concept anchor discussion of the wide diversity of sites, histories, discourses, and practices? This course, taking the troubled coherence of the concept as a point of departure, will discuss “empire” as a figure in political thought, its role in juridical and philosophical discourse, and its potential as a critical trope for examining the contemporary world. To bring the concept into focus will require us to negotiate a network of (productive) tensions surrounding ideas such as: nation, citizenship, sovereignty, territory, conquest, colony, history, economy, war, and law.