Robert Nichols

Robert Nichols is McKnight Land-Grant Professor of Political Theory at the University of Minnesota. He was previously a Humboldt Faculty Research Fellow in Philosophy at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, and a Fulbright Scholar in the Center for the Critical Analysis of Social Difference at Columbia University in New York. He has published three books, including The World of Freedom : Heidegger, Foucault, and the Politics of Historical Ontology (Standford, 2014) and Freedom and Democracy in an Imperial Context (Routledge, 2014). Professor Nichols is currently completing a monograph titled Theft is Property ! Dispossession and Critical Theory.



"Disaggregating Primitive Accumulation"

In recent years, the category of ‘primitive accumulation’ has been resurrected from Marx’s Capital, Vol. 1 and redeployed as a tool of critical theory. This lecture evaluates this approach with a particular eye to its utility as a tool of analysis linking the critique of capitalism to that of colonization. I contend that the category cannot be usefully expanded without prior disaggregation and reconstruction.

  • 23 May 2018, 15:00-17:00, EHESS (room A05-51), 54 Bld Raspail 75006 Paris


"Dispossession : A Conceptual Reconstruction"

This lecture provides a critical-historical reconstruction of the concept of dispossession. Drawing upon Marx’s critique of French anarchism in particular, Part I identifies a persistent limitation at the heart of the concept. Since dispossession presupposes prior possession, recourse to it appears conservative and tends to reinforce the very proprietary and commoditized models of social relations that radical critics generally seek to undermine. Part II turns to use of the term in Indigenous struggles against colonization, both in order to better grasp the stakes of the above problematic and suggest a way beyond it.

  • 24 May 2018, 9:00-11:00, EHESS (room 9), 105 Bld Raspail 75006 Paris


"The Indigenous Tradition of Counter-Dispossession"

This lecture analyzes how Indigenous peoples in the Anglo-settler world have critiqued processes of colonial dispossession, and how that critique has in turn transformed the collective subject of ‘indigeneity’ itself.

  • 30 May 2018, 15:00-17:00, EHESS (room A05-51), 54 Bld Raspail 75006 Paris


"Dilemmas of Self-Ownership, Rituals of Antiwill"

Various political and intellectual traditions have sought to leverage the language of self-ownership as a tool of radical critique, including Marxism, feminism, and Critical Race Theory. This lecture considers the dilemmas involved in this move, situating it within the broader framework of dispossession.

  • 6 June 2018, 15:00-17:00, EHESS (room A05-51), 54 Bld Raspail 75006 Paris