Reimagining the State: Theoretical Challenges and Transformative Possibilities, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Reimagining the State

Theoretical Challenges and Transformative Possibilities, 1st Edition

Edited by Davina Cooper, Nikita Dhawan, Janet Newman


300 pages | 6 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9780815382195
pub: 2019-08-16
Available for pre-order
Hardback: 9780815382157
pub: 2019-08-16
Available for pre-order

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This book examines what value if any, the state has for the pursuit of progressive politics; and how it might need to be re-thought or reimagined to deliver transformative change.

Is it possible to reimagine the state in ways that open up projects of political transformation? This interdisciplinary collection provides alternative perspectives to the ‘antistatism’ of much critical writing and contemporary political movement activism. Contributors explore ways of reimagining the state that attend critically to the capitalist, neoliberal, gendered and racist conditions of contemporary polities, yet seek to hold onto the state in the process. Drawing on postcolonial, poststructuralist, feminist, queer, Marxist, and anarchist thinking, they consider how states might be reread and reclaimed for radical politics. At the heart of this book is state plasticity – the capacity of the state conceptually and materially to take different forms. This plasticity is central to transformational thinking and practice, and to the conditions and labour that allow it to take place. But what can reimagining do; and what difficulties does it confront?

This book will appeal to academics and research students concerned with critical and transformative approaches to state theory, particularly in governance studies, politics and political theory, socio-legal studies, international relations, geography, gender/sexuality, cultural studies and anthropology.

Table of Contents

Reimagining the State:

Theoretical Challenges and Transformative Possibilities

Editors: Davina Cooper, Nikita Dhawan, and Janet Newman


List of Contributors

Introduction: Davina Cooper


I. The politics of reimagination

Janet Newman: The Political Work of Reimagination

Shirin Rai: Reimagining the State: Marxism, Feminism, Postcolonialism

Nikita Dhawan: State as Pharmakon


II: Performing re-readings

Anna Maria Kraemer: Why Africa’s ‘Weak States’ matter. A postcolonial critique of Euro-Western discourse on African statehood and sovereignty

Didi Herman: Christian Israel

María do Mar Castro Varela: The Ethical State?

Ruth Kinna: Using the Master’s Tools: Rights and Radical Politics


III: Prefigurative practices

Chiara De Cesari: Anticipatory Representation: Thinking Art and Museums as Platforms of Resourceful Statecraft

Davina Cooper: Conceptual prefiguration and municipal radicalism: Reimagining what it could mean to be a state

Morag McDermont: Regulating with Social Justice in Mind: an Experiment in Re-imagining the State


IV. ReImagining otherwise

John Clarke: Harmful Thoughts: Reimagining the Coercive State

Nick Gill: Border Abolition and How to Achieve it

Sarah Browne/ Jesse Jones: Refusal first, then Re-imagination: Presenting the Burn in Flames Post-Patriarchal Archive in Circulation


Conclusion: Janet Newman and Nikita Dhawan

About the Editors

Davina Cooper is a research professor in Law and Political Theory, Dickson Poon School of Law, King's College London

Nikita Dhawan is a professor of Political Science and Gender Studies at the University of Gießen, Germany.

Janet Newman is Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the Open University, UK.

About the Series

Social Justice

Within a broad geopolitical and intellectual landscape, this new, theoretically engaged, interdisciplinary series explores institutional and grassroots practices of social justice across a range of spatial scales. While the pursuit of social justice is as important as it has ever been, its character, conditions, values, and means of advancement are being radically questioned and rethought in the light of contemporary challenges and choices. Attuned to these varied and evolving contexts, Social Justice explores the complex conditions social justice politics confronts and inhabits – of crisis, shock, and erosion, as well as renewal and social invention, of change as well as continuity.

Foregrounding struggle, imagined alternatives and the embedding of new norms, the Social Justice series welcomes books which critically and normatively address the values underpinning new social politics, everyday forms of embodied practice, new dissident knowledges, and struggles to institutionalise change. In particular, the series seeks to explore state and non-state forms of organisation, analysing the different pathways through which social justice projects are put into practice, and the contests their practice generates. More generally, submissions are welcomed exploring the following themes:

• The changing politics of equality and social justice

• The establishment of alternative, organised sites and networks through which social and political experimentation take place

• The phenomenology of power, inequality and changing social relations

• Techniques of governance through which social change and equality agendas are advanced and institutionalised across different geographic scales

• Institutionalisation of new norms (through official and unofficial forms of institutionalisation) and struggles over them

• Practices of resistance, reversal, counter-hegemony and anti-normativity

• Changing values, practices, and the ways in which relations of inequality and difference are understood

Social Justice is intended as a critical interdisciplinary series, at the interface of law, social theory, politics and cultural studies. The series welcomes proposals that advance theoretical discussion about social justice, power, institutions, grass-roots practice and values/ ethics. Seeking to develop new conversations across different disciplines and fields, and working with wide-ranging methodologies, Social Justice seeks contributions that are open, engaging, and which speak to a wide, diverse academic audience across all areas of the law, social sciences and humanities.

For further information on the series, or to discuss a possible contribution, please contact the Series Editors at:

Davina Cooper, Kent Law School, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, UK
Tel: +44 (1227) 824172

Sarah Lamble, School of Law, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX
Tel: +44 (0)207 631 6017

Sarah Keenan, School of Law, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX
Tel: +44 (0)207 631 6017


Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / Judicial Power
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Government / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Radicalism