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I am Perry-Williams Postdoctoral Fellow in Philosophy and Political Science at the College of Wooster, a position facilitated by the Consortium for Faculty Diversity. I received my Ph.D. in political theory from the University of Notre Dame (2019) and my B.A. from the Honors College at the University of Houston (2014). I work primarily on late modern and contemporary political thought, continental philosophy, and critical theory.

My current book manuscript, The Subject Against Itself: Genealogy and the Transformation of the Political, recasts the intimate relationship between subjectivation and politics. The usual narrative is that a deconstructive genealogy of the subject (as in, for example, Foucault’s work) ultimately yields a politics of critical resistance: the refusal of modern structures of power and domination without a particular vision of the future. However, a politics of resistance hasn’t always been the sole recourse of the genealogical subject. I look to the writings of Rousseau, Nietzsche, the Frankfurt School, and Foucault in order to argue that their varying accounts of the role of the political, from the decided optimism of the social contract to the eugenic dangers of bio-politics, transform in relation to their redefinitions of the genealogical subject turned against itself. Going beyond contemporary political theory that emphasizes how the political impinges upon and shapes the subject, this book critically examines the continually metamorphosing co-constitutive relationship between the subject and the political.

My next book project studies how justifications for punishment throughout history transform in relation to changing conceptions of the subject. I look to prominent justifications for punishment in political thought from Plato, who argued for punishment as a way to ‘cure’ the soul, to Hegel, who argued that punishment was necessary to reestablish the rationality of the state for the sake of those in it, to Nietzsche, who contended that punishment played a crucial role in our becoming guilt-ridden subjects, and to Foucault, who argued that punishment socializes citizens through the creation and manipulation of the ‘soul.’ Such a project is warranted presently because contemporary abolitionist alternatives to prison must continually contest widespread and persistent Enlightenment beliefs about subjectivity, rationality, and culpability. This book-length project will argue, then, that central to the persisting tension between prison abolition movements and calls for more punitive punishment is a deep and intractable disagreement about the nature of subjectivity.

Shorter current and future projects include papers on Rousseau’s institutional practice of freedom, Marcuse’s conception of repressive desublimation in the context of neoliberalism, the centrality of punishment to subjectivity in Nietzsche and Foucault, and revolutionary subjectivity in Fanon.

My original research has appeared or is forthcoming in the scholarly journals Constellations, Contemporary Political Theory, International Relations, and Philosophy & Literature. I have also written book reviews for History of Political Thought, Review of Politics and Thesis Eleven.

You can contact me at ssimpson@wooster.edu.