Imagining the State for Progressive Politics – workshop


University of Kent, Canterbury 

From 3.00 pm 19 May – 4 pm 20 May 2016

Do states have a place within a transformative progressive politics and might the state need to be reimagined in order for them to have one? If states are conceptualised as unified, territorially bounded, sovereign apparatuses coordinating the national and international interests of socioeconomic elites, and depressing subaltern agendas, the capacity for states to advance social justice and equality may seem limited. But is it possible to conceptualise what it is to be a state differently; how much flexibility is there in the state’s reimagining? And what can reimagining do?

This two day workshop will include presentations and discussion based on pre-circulated short texts by an invited group of scholars. Other academics, graduate students and non-academic specialists are invited to attend and participate in the open discussion. 


Gianpaolo Baiocchi, NYU
Chiara De Cesari, Amsterdam
John Clarke, OU
Davina Cooper, Kent
Nikita Dhawan, Innsbruck, Switzerland,
Luis Eslava, Kent
Nick Gill, Exeter
Ruth Kinna, Loughborough
Janet Newman, OU
Joe Painter, Durham
Shirin Rai, Warwick
Maria do Mar Castro Varela, Alice Salomon University Berlin


·         How might the concept of the state be reimagined to support a progressive transformative politics?
·         What contribution can particular disciplinary methods make to this reimagining?
·         In what circumstances do legal reform campaigns and activist legal strategies draw on idealised conceptions of the state; what are the implications of doing so?
·         What relationships exist between official, activist and academic ways of imagining the state (critical or otherwise) and progressive or radical politics?
·         Can states be productively imagined at different scales, with different relationships to locality and globe?
·         Can states develop radically new forms of political organisation and representation, and can they meaningfully support those lacking social power?
·         What resources, social practices and texts – from social experiments to political texts and utopian fiction (such as News from nowhere, Woman on the edge of time etc) – might help to inspire new state imaginations?
·         What can reimagining the state do (and not do)?

Registration: free to attend but places are limited; please send an email indicating you wish to attend to stating the name of the workshop and giving your name and institution

For more information, please contact Davina Cooper (


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