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Desiring Walls

Gendering the Social Sciences - Gender Institute public lecture series

In this lecture, Professor Wendy Brown will draw on discourse analysis, psychoanalysis, and feminist theory to examine the desire for walls in the context of eroding sovereignty.

Why the current proliferation of nation-state walls, especially amidst widespread proclamations of global connectedness and anticipation of a world without borders? And why barricades built of concrete, steel and barbed wire when threats to the nation today are so often miniaturized, vaporous, clandestine, dispersed or networked? Why walls now and how are they to be understood?

While acknowledging variety in the explicit purposes of the new walls, this project argues for comprehending the recent spate of wall building in terms of eroded nation-state sovereignty. As walls permit infiltration by much of what they formally interdict, confound the very distinction between law and lawlessness represented by the nation state, and both highlight and exacerbate tensions between global flows (of labor, goods, ideas, peoples, and finance) and national anxieties, walls also reveal a theological dimension of sovereignty, register theatrical and contradictory dimensions of sovereign decline, and project a (false and untenable) imago of sovereign power. Above all, the new walls consecrate the boundary corruption they overtly contest and signify the ungovernability by law of a range of forces unleashed by globalization.

Wendy Brown is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Her fields of interest include the history of political theory, nineteenth and twentieth century Continental theory, critical theory, and cultural theory (including feminist theory, critical race theory, and postcolonial theory). Her current work focuses on the relationship of political sovereignty to global capital and other transnational forces, including those associated with religion, law, culture and moral discourse.

Professor Brown's books include Manhood and Politics: A Feminist Reading in Political Theory (Rowman and Littlefield, 1988), States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity (Princeton, 1995), Politics Out of History (Princeton, 2001), Left Legalism/Left Critique, co-edited with Janet Halley (Duke, 2002), Edgework: Critical Essays in Knowledge and Politics (Princeton, 2005), and Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire (Princeton, 2006).


Professor Wendy Brown | talks
Professor Anne Phillips | talks


Date and Time:

12 November 2008 at 6:30 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



Hong Kong Theatre, London School of Economics &Political Science
Houghton St

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Organised by:

London School of Economics & Political Science
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Available from:

This event is free and open to all with no ticket required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis. For more information, email events@lse.ac.uk or phone 020 7955 6043.

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