Beastly Citizens: An Occluded History of Rightlessness in Modernity


ACLS Fellowship Program


European Languages and Transcultural Studies


“Beastly Citizens” examines the birth of a most paradoxical figure in modernity, paradoxical because it embodies at the same time an apolitical being—the beast—and the highest form of political agency—the citizen. In Western political theory, such a mongrel would constitute an impossibility, but as this project illustrates, this contradiction constitutes a key figuration of rightlessness in modernity. Far from being exceptions to twentieth- and twenty-first-century metahistorical fictions, beastly citizens turn up everywhere in art, literature and film, shedding light on daily struggles under colonial oppression or with postcolonial legacy, after traumatic displacements by war and ecological disaster or during a financial crisis. At stake here is an occluded history of paradoxically rightless citizens in modernity.