The states of exception: biopolitics, human rights, utopia

Hosted by LSE Human Rights and Birkbeck Law School

LSE Lecture Theatre, Centre Building, London School of Economics and Political Science, WC2A 2AE


Kirsten Campbell

Kirsten Campbell

Costas Douzinas

Costas Douzinas

Conor Gearty

Conor Gearty

Oscar Guardiola-Rivera

Oscar Guardiola-Rivera


Ayça Çubukçu

Ayça Çubukçu

The States of Exception: Biopolitics, Human Rights, Utopia by Costas Douzinas assesses and critiques the ways in which governments responded to three recent emergencies: the 2008 economic crisis, the large flows of refugees and migrants since the 2010s and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Western governments adopted extreme measures which escalated the tendency towards authoritarianism which emerged in the 1980s. This book launch discusses the theoretical and practical consequences of the state of exception. Human rights are paradoxically both tools for the biopolitical exercise of state power and strategies of resistance. The dignity immanent in natural law combined with the ‘desire called utopia’ find in daily life traces of the past and links them with the promise of the future. Human rights are the unfulfilled promise of dignity desperately seeking the u-topos of happiness. 

Meet the speaker and chair: 

Kirsten Campbell is a Professor in Sociology at Goldsmiths College. Her research investigates conflict-related sexual violence in international criminal law and transitional justice. Kirsten has worked on policy and practice in this area with NGOs, governments, and the UN. Her recent book, The Justice of Humans: Subject, Society, and Sexual Violence in International Criminal Justice draws on her European Research Council projects, The Gender of Justice, and TRANSFORM. Kirsten co-directs the Sociology Unit for Global Justice and convenes the Gender of Justice research group. She is also a member of the Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict international research group.

Costas Douzinas (@CostasDouzinas) is a Professor of Law and former Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities. Costas has created two new inter-disciplinary areas of research: a distinct school of British critical legal thought, and the turning of legal scholarship towards ethical concerns and aesthetic considerations, namely research on law and visuality. Costas' books have been translated into thirteen languages and have led to extensive lecture tours of Latin America, South Africa and Europe. Costas has been involved in the various movements of the 2010s; has written extensively for The Guardian, OpenDemocracy and other global publications; and has a continuous presence on radio and TV.

Conor Gearty (@conorgearty) is Professor of Human Rights Law at LSE Law School. He was Director of LSE’s Centre for the Study of Human Rights (2002-2009). In 2012 he became Director of LSE’s Institute of Public Affairs and in this capacity was responsible for a crowd-sourced UK Constitution, drafted in 2015. He has published widely on terrorism, civil liberties and human rights. Conor is also a barrister and was a founder member of Matrix chambers from where he continues to practise. 

Oscar Guardiola-Rivera is the award-winning author of "What If Latin America Ruled the World?" (Bloomsbury, 2010) and "Story of a Death Foretold" (Bloomsbury, 2014) as well as, with others, "Decolonizing Ethics. The Critical Theory of Enrique Dussel" (Pennsylvania University Press, 2022). He's one of the presenters and producers the internationally recognised Beyond Borders Podcast. His fiction work "Under the World" (The 87 Press) will be launched at the Hay Festival and Edinburgh Book Festival later this year. He's the Professor of Human Rights & Political Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London."

Ayça Çubukçu (@ayca_cu) is Associate Professor in Human Rights and Co-Director of LSE Human Rights at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Before LSE, Dr Çubukçu was a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute, and taught for the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University and the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies at Harvard University. In 2020, she was appointed as a Senior Fellow of the Fung Global Fellows programme at Princeton University.


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