I am also interested in the intersections of liberalism and empire. My article, "Tocqueville's Savages," was recently published in The Tocqueville Review/La Revue Tocqueville. I argue that Tocqueville's representations of indigenous groups facilitated his divergent appraisals of colonial violence in Algeria and America. I situate Tocqueville’s liberal and democratic commitments in relation to his view of history and Realpolitik to explain his unwillingness to extend to indigenous subjects the liberty he is famous for celebrating.
"The Promise and Risk of Democratic Judgment: Constituting Identity in the Courts and Theatre of Athens"
The Athenian popular courts are generally viewed as an institution in which ordinary citizens attempted (and often failed) to reach true or just decisions, or as a vital site of popular rule. This article offers a new way of understanding the courts, and it does so through theorizing democratic judgment as identity-constitution, which has implications for contemporary theory. Through a careful study of what I take to be a quintessential moment of democratic judgment—the trial of Demosthenes in the wake of Athens’ humiliating submission to Macedon—I suggest that to reflect and to pass collective judgment on what is just, tolerable, advantageous or noble is always also to reflect upon and assert an understanding of “who we [the demos] are.”Foregrounding identity-constitution in our understanding of democratic judgment has descriptive and normative advantages. Unlike approaches that describe and justify democratic judgment as a form of rule, this approach permits normative evaluation of better or worse judgments without relying on a “Platonic” notion of objective truth or correctness that might undermine the validity of democratic judgment altogether. Likewise, anchoring a theory of democratic judgment to the phenomenon of identity-constitution allows us to respond more effectively to the risks of popular judgment while better estimating its value.