Pheng Cheah



PhD, Cornell
LLB, University of Sydney

Image of Pheng Cheah


7317 Dwinelle Hall

Wednesdays, 11am-12pm, and by appointment



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 completing a book entitled The Politics and Rights of Life: Toward a Biopolitical Theory of Human Rights and a collection of essays on the changing character of power in contemporary globalization and the role of culture and comparison in these transformations with special reference to postcolonial Asia. 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.



“Quasi-Metaphoricity and the Turning Force of Alterity,” in Dilip Gaonkar and Keith Topper (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Rhetoric and Political Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2017).

“Emergence: Dissensus in a Global Field of Instrumentality,” in Scott Durham and Dilip Gaonkar (eds.), Distributions of the Sensible: Rancière, Between Aesthetics and Politics (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, forthcoming 2016).

“Representing the Sinophone, Truly: On Tsai Ming-liang’s I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone,” in David Der-wei Wang, A New Literary History of Modern China (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, forthcoming 2016).


“World Against Globe: Toward a Normative Conception of World Literature,” New Literary History, Vol. 45, no. 3 (Summer 2014), pp. 303-329.

“Entering the Silkworm’s World: A Response to Xu Bing,” in Yeewan Koon (ed.), It Begins with Metamorphosis: Xu Bing (Hong Kong: Asia Society Hong Kong Center, 2014), pp. 98-101.

“Of Other Worlds to Come,” in Sven Trakulhun and Ralph Weber (eds.), Delimiting Modernities: Conceptual Challenges and Regional Responses (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015), pp. 3-23.

“Second Generation Human Rights as Bio-political Rights,” in Costas Douzinas and Conor Gearty (eds.), The Meaning(s) of Human Rights (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp. 215-232.

“Human Rights and the Material Making of Humanity: A Response to Samuel Moyn’s The Last Utopia,” Qui Parle, Vol. 22, no. 1 (Fall/Winter 2013), pp. 55-62.

“The Biopolitics of Recognition: Making Female Subjects of Globalization,” Boundary 2, Vol. 40, no. 2 (Summer 2013), pp. 81-112.
    -Shorter version in Jason Potts and Daniel Stout (eds.), Theory Aside (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014), pp. 117-142.

“Political Bodies without Organs: On Hegel’s Ideal State and Deleuzian Micropolitics,” in Jim Vernon and Karen Houle (eds.), Hegel and Deleuze: Together Again for the First Time (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2013), pp. 97-114.

“World as Picture and Ruination: On Jia Zhangke’s Still Life as World Cinema,” in Carlos Rojas and Eileen Chow (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Chinese Cinemas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 190-208.

“To Open: Hospitality and Alienation,” in Thomas Claviez (ed.), The Conditions of Hospitality: Ethics, Politics, and Aesthetics on the Threshold of the Possible (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013), pp. 57-80.

“The Physico-Material Bases of Cosmopolitanism,” in Sigal R. Ben-Porath and Rogers Smith (eds.), Varieties of Sovereignty and Citizenship (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), pp. 189-210.

“Acceptable Uses of People,” in Mark Goodale (ed.), Human Rights at the Crossroads (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 210-225.

“‘The World is Watching’: The Mediatic Structure of Cosmopolitanism,” Journalism Studies, special issue on cosmopolitanism and the new news media, Vol. 14, Issue 2 (2013), pp. 219-231.
    – Reprinted in Lilie Chouliaraki and Bolette Blaagaard (eds.), Cosmopolitanism and the New News Media (London and New York: Routledge, 2014), pp. 72-82.

“Entering the World from an Oblique Angle: On Jia Zhangke as an Organic Intellectual,” in Baidik Bhattacharya and Neelam Srivasta (eds.), The Postcolonial Gramsci (London: Routledge, 2012), pp. 137-164.

“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), pp. 11-34.

“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), pp. 215-227.
    Reprinted in special issue of International Journal of Okinawan Studies on Women and Globalization, edited by Kazuko Takemura, Vol. 2, no. 2 (Spring 2012), pp. 81-94.

“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), pp. 21-64.

“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.
    – Reprinted in Rita Felski and Susan Stanford Friedman (eds.), Comparison: Theories, Approaches, Uses (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), pp. 168-190.

“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.
    – Reprinted 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 Cosmopolitanism,” special issue of Daedalus: Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on cosmopolitanism, Vol. 137, no. 3 (Summer 2008), pp. 26-38.
    – Reprinted in Routledge Handbook of Cosmopolitan Studies, (ed.), Gerard Delanty (Routledge, 2012), pp. 138-149.

“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.
    – Reprinted in Chris Berry (ed.), Chinese Cinema: Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies, Volume 4 (Abingdon, Oxon; New York: Routledge, 2013), pp. 3-16.
    – Reprinted in Michael Peters and Alicia de Alba, Subjects in Process: Diversity, Mobility, and the Politics of Subjectivity in the 21st Century (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2012), pp. 69-82.
    – Earlier version published as “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.
    – Earlier draft in proceedings of Asia/Cinema/Network: Industry, Technology and Film Culture Conference, Korean Film Council and Pusan International Film Festival (2005): 231-41

“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 Shu-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 published 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.
    – Reprinted in The Ashgate Research Companion to Cosmopolitanism, (eds.) Maria Rovisco and Magdalena Nowicka (London: Ashgate, 2011), pp. 211-224.
    – Abridged version reprinted in Die Interkulturalitäts-debatte: Leit- und Streitbegriffe/Intercultural Discourse – Key and Contested Concepts, (eds.), Monika Kirloskar-Steinbach, Gita Dharampal-Frick and Minou Friele (Freiburg: Karl Alber Verlag, 2012), pp. 298-304.

“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.

“Spectrality and Reincarnation: Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s Buru Quartet as Historical Memory,” in Imagining the Past, Remembering the Future: War, Violence and Memory in Asia, (ed.) Maria Serena I. Diokno (Japan Foundation Asia Center and University of Philippines: Quezon City, 2001), 131-44.

“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), pp. 54-68.

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

“Reflections on Globalization and the (In)human,” in Social Insecurity, (eds.) Len Guenther and Cornelius Heesters, Alphabet City, No. 7, 2000, 60-62.

“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.
    – Reprinted in Becomings: Explorations in Time, Memory and Futures, (ed.), Elizabeth Grosz (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999), pp. 176-200.
    – Excerpt reprinted in Globalization: A Reader, (ed.), Charles Lemert, Anthony Elliott, Daniel Chaffee, Eric Hsu (London: Routledge, 2010), pp. 386-389.

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

“Given Culture: Rethinking Cosmopolitical Freedom in Transnationalism,” Boundary 2, Vol. 24, no. 2, Summer 1997, 157-197.
    – Reprinted in Cosmopolitics – Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation, (eds.), Pheng Cheah and Bruce Robbins (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), pp. 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.
    – Earlier version published 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.
    Reprinted in Transnational Asia Pacific: Gender, Culture and the Public Sphere, (eds.), Shirley Lim, Wimal Dissanayake and Larry Smith (University of Illinois Press, 1999), pp. 11-42.

“Mattering,” Diacritics, Vol. 26, no. 1, Spring 1996, 108-139.

“The Body of the Law: Notes Toward a Theory of Corporeal Justice,” (with Elizabeth Grosz), in Thinking Through the Body of the Law, (eds.), Pheng Cheah, David Fraser and Judith Grbich (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1996 and New York: New York University Press, 1996), 3-25.

“Bodies and Law,” (with David Fraser and Judith Grbich), Introduction to Thinking Through the Body of the Law, (eds.), Pheng Cheah, David Fraser and Judith Grbich (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1996 and New York: New York University Press, 1996), xi-xix.

“Violent Light: The Idea of Publicness in Modern Philosophy and in Global Neocolonialism,” Social Text, no. 43, Fall 1995, 163-190.

“Sexual Difference, Cultural Difference: Body and History (in Gallop),” in Jill Julius Matthews (ed.), Jane Gallop Seminar Papers, Humanities Research Centre Monograph Series no. 7 (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1994), 131-146.

“Stagings of the Margin: The Limits of Critical Race Theory,” The Australian Feminist Law Journal, Vol. 2, March 1994, 13-35.

“The Law of/as Rape: Poststructuralism and the Framing of the Legal Text,” Law in Context, Vol. 9, no. 2, 1991, 117-129.
    – Partially reprinted in Peter D. Rush and Stanley M. H. Yeo (eds.), Criminal Law Sourcebook (Sydney: Butterworths, 2000), 255-259.

Interviews, Book Reviews and Roundtables

“That which cannot be recognized as human: interview with Pheng Cheah on cosmopolitanism, nationalism and human rights in contemporary globalization” Theory, Culture and Society Blog, 2011, interview-with-pheng-cheah-on.html.

“Pheng Cheah Interview,” in H.L. Hix, God Bless: A Political /Poetic Discourse Mediated by H.L. Hix (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.: Etruscan Press, 2007), 161-69.

“Discourses of Nationalism and Transnationalism in Political Mobilization,” Roundtable with Craig Calhoun, Raka Ray, and Peter Evans, Berkeley Journal of Sociology, vol. 47, 2003, 170-185.

“The Future of Sexual Difference: An Interview with Judith Butler and Drucilla Cornell,” (with Elizabeth Grosz), Diacritics, Vol. 28, no. 1, Spring 1998, 19-42.

“Interview. Situations of Value: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak on Feminism and Cultural Work in a Neocolonial Postcolonial Conjuncture,” Australian Feminist Studies, no. 17, Autumn 1993, 141-161.

Review of Anthony Woodwiss, Globalisation, Human Rights and Labour Law in Pacific Asia, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 105, no. 4, January 2000, 1202-1204.

“Interpretation, Translation, Multicultural Recognition: Some Limits,” review essay, The Australian Feminist Law Journal, Vol. 6, March 1996, 185-192.

Review Essay. Drucilla Cornell, Beyond Accommodation – Ethical Feminism, Deconstruction and the Law, Sydney Law Review, Vol. 15, no. 1, March 1993, 101-111.

“Fabricated Reality,” review of Rosalyn Diprose and Robyn Ferrell (eds.), Cartographies – Poststructuralism and the Mapping of Bodies and Spaces and Alan Cholodenko (ed.), The Illusion of Life – Essays on Animation, Editions Review, no. 13, January/February 1992, 23-24.



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.
“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.