Past event

Against Liberal Narcissism: Reading Edward Said for Political Theory Jeanne Morefield - Associate Professor of Political Theory at the University of Oxford

This lecture draws upon Edward Said's contrapuntal reading of imperialism to critique the self-referential, exceptionalist impulses of contemporary liberalism – what I call “liberal narcissism.” Reflecting on some of the conceptual limitations of mainstream political theory's approach to the entanglements of liberalism and imperialism, I seek to bring the historical insights of the “turn to empire” to bear on the present. I do this by reading contemporary liberalism through Said's understanding of imperialism as a “contested and joint experience” that rationalizes – even as it occludes – it's affiliative connections to power. Tracing and disentangling these connections, I argue, can help decenter and de-exceptionalize liberalism precisely at a political moment when we need to be thinking beyond its limitations.