Northwestern Events Calendar


Political Theory Workshop | Up the Street Series: White and Deadly: Sugar and the Sweet Taste of Freedom

When: Friday, May 20, 2022
3:30 PM - 5:30 PM Central

Where: Scott Hall, 212, 601 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Graduate Students

Contact: Ariel Sowers   (847) 491-7454

Group: Department of Political Science

Category: Academic


Please join the Political Theory Workshop in hosting Elisabeth Anker from George Washington University.

About Ugly Freedoms: "In Ugly Freedoms Elisabeth R. Anker reckons with the complex legacy of freedom offered by liberal American democracy, outlining how the emphasis of individual liberty has always been entangled with white supremacy, settler colonialism, climate destruction, economic exploitation, and patriarchy. These “ugly freedoms” legitimate the right to exploit and subjugate others. At the same time, Anker locates an unexpected second type of ugly freedom in practices and situations often dismissed as demeaning, offensive, gross, and ineffectual but that provide sources of emancipatory potential. She analyzes both types of ugly freedom at work in a number of texts and locations, from political theory, art, and film to food, toxic dumps, and multispecies interactions. Whether examining how Kara Walker’s sugar sculpture A Subtlety, Or the Marvelous Sugar Baby reveals the importance of sugar plantations to liberal thought or how the impoverished neighborhoods in The Wire blunt neoliberalism’s violence, Anker shifts our perspective of freedom by contesting its idealized expressions and expanding the visions for what freedom can look like, who can exercise it, and how to build a world free from domination."

Elisabeth Anker is Associate Professor of American Studies and Political Science at the George Washington University, and Director of the Film Studies Program. Her research and teaching interests are at the intersection of political theory and cultural studies, with a focus on practices of freedom, violence, and power in US politics and culture. She is the author of Orgies of Feeling: Melodrama and the Politics of Freedom (Duke 2014), which examined the role of melodrama in US politics.  Melodrama is a powerful political discourse that intensifies suffering and galvanizes national sentiment to legitimate state violence.

Anker’s newest book, Ugly Freedoms (Duke, forthcoming 2022), argues that while freedom is highest ideal in American political culture, throughout American history it has legitimated brutal domination. Libby Anker argues for a full reckoning with modern freedom’s complex legacy, which includes support for white supremacy, environmental destruction, settler colonialism, neoliberal exploitation, and misogyny. Each illustrates the problem of “ugly freedom”.


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