Jane Bennett Former Senior Fellow

Jane Bennett
April - June 2017


Jane Bennett is professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University. She is one of the founders of the journal Theory & Event, and is currently the editor of Political Theory: An International Journal of Political Philosophy.

Professor Bennett specializes in political theory: ecological philosophy, American political thought, political rhetoric and persuasion, and contemporary social theory. She has been a Fellow at Oxford University (Keble College), Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities (University of London), and the Humanities Research Centre at Australian National University.

Dated from 2017

Fields of research

political theory, eco-philosophy, American political thought

IKKM Research Project

On Influence

While many contemporary philosophies of the self, and of human agency, tend to emphasize the activity of expression – the enactment or externalization of an intention, desire, will, or purpose, I am interested in exploring the process through which the outside comes in. I am thus working on a manuscript on concepts and figures of influence. Influence: the default condition of intrinsically porous and relational bodies. The American poet and democratic theorist Walt Whitman plays a prominent role in the study, but I also explore a variety of different models of the process through which individuals are psychically and physiologically affected by forces, shapes, ideas, affects, and tendencies coming from the "outside." In addition to Whitman's experimentation with the democratic potential of "sympathy," I examine Alfred North Whitehead's theory of "affective tone" (which focuses on unconscious and in-sensible modes of influence), Roger Caillois's theory of the "instinct of abandon" (developed at the time of an emergent fascism in Europe), and contemporary theories (in behavioral psychology and cognitive science) of "embodied cognition.

Recent publications

Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, Duke University Press, 2011

"Mimesis: Paradox and Encounter," MLN: Special Issue on Lacoue-Labarthe, forthcoming December 2017.

"Of Sympathies Alchemical and Poetic," Rare Earth, Tyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna (with Sternberg Press), 2015: 112-118. (revised version of "Of Material Sympathies, Paracelsus, and Whitman," first appearing in Material Ecocriticism)

"Vibrant Matter," Posthuman Glossary, eds. Rosi Braidotti and M. Hlavajova, Bloomsbury Publishers, forthcoming 2017

"Whitman's Sympathies," Political Research Quarterly 69:3, September 2016: 607-620.
With published responses: Romand Coles, “Walt Whitman, Jane Bennett, and the Paradox of Antagonistic Sympathy,” 621-625 Cristin Ellis, “Numb Networks: Race, Identity, and the Politics of Impersonal Sympathies”, 626-632.

"Vegetal Life and OntoSympathy" (with original drawings), in Entangled Worlds: Religion, Science, and New Materialisms, edited by Catherine Keller and Mary-Jane Rubenstein, Fordham University Press, forthcoming 2017, 89-110.

"Encounters with the Art-Thing," Evental Aesthetics, part of an issue devoted to Vital Materialism, vol. 3, no. 3, Winter 2014

"The Shapes of Odradek and the Edges of Perception," in Grain/Vapor/Ray: Textures of the Anthropocene, eds. Katrin Klingan, Ashkan Sepahvand, Christopher Rosol, and Bernd Scherer, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, and MIT Press, 2014, 13-28.

"Bilder von Odradek und die Rander der Wahrnehmung," German translation of my "The Shapes of Odradek and the Edges of Perception," in Das Anthropozan: Zum Stand der Dinge, eds. Jurgen Renn and Bernd Scherer, Matthes & Seitz, Berlin 2015, 47-66.

“Ontology, Sensibility, and Action,” in "Politics that Matter: Thinking about Power and Justice with the New Materialists,"Contemporary Political Theory, 14(1), 2014, 63-89.