• Itineraries of Dissent: Treason, Rebellion, Revolution

    240G | CCN: 78103

    Instructor: Samera Esmeir

    Date / Time: Th 11-2P, 7415 DWINELLE

    4 Units

    What is the relationship between treason, rebellion and revolution? In answering this question, some suggest that a revolution is an event that succeeds to overthrow the political order whereas a rebellion is an outburst that does not culminate in changing the prevailing order. Related are a number of approaches that emphasize the illegitimacy of rebellion and treason as compared to revolutions that aim to regenerate political communities. In this seminar, we will explore other ways of articulating the relationship between treason, rebellion and revolution beyond questions of success and failure, or in other words, beyond the politics of ends. We will pursue two distinct itineraries of revolution and rebellion, and trace their blending in the anti-colonial struggles of the twentieth century. With the first itinerary, we will explore the consolidation of the term in writings about the motion of heavenly spheres (Nicolaus Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres [1542]) and the acquiring of the term, half a century later, of modern political resonance indicating the overthrowing of a political regime. In this context, we will read John Locke’s "Right to Revolution" and continue to examine the reconfiguration of the term and its life in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The second itinerary explores the history of rebellion in relation to treason, as the two terms were closely related. The focus in this itinerary will be on the figure of the rebel and the treasonous/rebellious act/practice, starting with Renaissance England and culminating in contemporary treason. Finally, we will consider the intersection of these two itineraries in decolonization struggles, while assessing recent interventions concerning the collapse of revolutionary futures.

    In addition to the books below, we will read selections from C.L.R James and Albert Camus, John Locke as well as articles on rebellion and treason in English law.

    1. Nicolaus Copernicus, On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres

    2. George Huntston William, The Radical Reformation

    3. Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution

    4. Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto

    5. Lenin, Revolution at the Gates

    6. Carl Schmitt, A Theory of the Partisan

    7. Hannah Arendt, On Revolution

    8. Koselleck, Critique and Crisis

    9. Michel Foucault, Society Must be Defended

    10. Rebecca Lemon, Treason by Words: Literature, Law and Rebellion in Shakespeare’s England

    11. Giorgio Agamben, Civil War as a Political Paradigm

    12. James Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia

    13. David Scott, Omens of Adversity: Tragedy, Time, Memory, Justice