Dhawan, Nikita

(Frankfurt Research Center for Postcolonial Studies, Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main)

The Death of Leviathan: Radical Politics and State-Phobia

Unequal access to power and uneven distribution of resources in the current phase of postcolonial late capitalism has spurred a range of critical discourses and movements that seek to reconfigure global hierarchies. Neoliberal globalization has led to the systematic dismantling of accountability of the state. Ironically, the loss of legitimacy of the state has opened up new opportunities of action for the international civil society, which is increasingly entrusted with the task of globally monitoring issues of transnational justice, peace and democracy.

Interrogating popular perceptions of the “benevolent” international civil society versus the “wicked” state, my talk will contest normative understandings of resistance and critique. Drawing attention to subaltern groups, who can neither access organs of the state nor transnational counterpublics, I will demonstrate the limits of the vanguardism of extra-state collective action and the state-phobic politics of the feudally benevolent alter-globalization lobby.


Nikita Dhawan is Junior Professor of Political Science for Gender/Postcolonial Studies, Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders”, Goethe University Frankfurt. She has held visiting fellowships at the Institute for International Law and the Humanities, The University of Melbourne, Australia; Program of Critical Theory, University of California, Berkeley, USA; University of La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain; Pusan National University, South Korea; Columbia University, New York, USA.

Selected publications: Decolonizing Enlightenment: Transnational Justice, Human Rights and Democracy in a Postcolonial World (2013; ed.); Impossible Speech: On the Politics of Silence and Violence (2007); Postkoloniale Theorie. Eine kritische Einführung (2005; 2014; with María do Mar Castro Varela).