The Society for Critical Exchange
Conferences and Conventions

Sovereignty and the Right to Death

Cleveland State University
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
October 17-18, 2003

[The citizen's] life is not now, as it once was, simply a gift bestowed by nature, but one that he holds, on terms, from the State.
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract

Political philosophers have long identified the essence of sovereignty with the state's right to the death of its citizens, in its power to employ capital punishment on one hand and to demand the sacrifice of its citizens' lives in its military defense in times of war, on the other -- a monopoly over death that it maintains by also proscribing homicide, suicide and assisted suicide. Today, however, we live in a time in which many of the sovereign practices underwritten by that linkage have begun to come into question, legally, politically, and theoretically, from the increasing internationalization of the law of capital punishment and the jus ad bellum, to the successes of the "right to die" movements around the world, to theoretical developments across a wide range of intellectual disciplines. Against the backdrop of these trends, our aim in this conference is to interrogate the traditional philosophical linkage of sovereignty and death. At stake is a question of fundamental importance to democracy and democratic politics: Is there a relation between sovereign and citizen that is not grounded ultimately on the sovereign's right to the citizen's death?

Speakers include Lauren Berlant, Robert Bernasconi, Drucilla Cornell, Simon Critchley, Costas Douzinas, Peter Fitzpatrick, Peter Goodrich, Anselm Haverkamp, Tayyab Mahmud, Achille Mbembe, J. Hillis Miller, Andrew Norris, Austin Sarat, Denise Ferreira da Silva, and Johan van der Walt.

Visit the website for more information:

or contact Adam Thurschwell, Associate Professor of Law
Ph: (216) 687-3944, Fax: (216) 687-6881
Mailing Address: Cleveland State University 2121 Euclid Avenue LB 138 Cleveland, OH 44115-2214



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