Aesthetics and the Critique of Political Theology

The project Aesthetics and the Critique of Political Theology examines works of art and modes of aesthetic reflection as vehicles for critique of political theology and draws connections among European political-theological traditions, the critical work of Frankfurt and twentieth-century French and Italian thinkers, and Latin American aesthetic practices and political upheavals.

In addition to fostering faculty and graduate student exchanges, the new cooperation is developing bilingual graduate and undergraduate courses on political theology in Latin American and European contexts that will be offered as part of Northwestern's Critical Theory Certificate Program.

The group works closely together with the Mellon projects Circulating Anarchisms and Marxisms in the Andes at Northwestern and the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima, and Technologies of Critique, led by Paul North at Yale and Willy Thayer at the Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educación, Chile.

Complementary workshops, lectures, seminars, and roundtables are organized and offered in conjunction with:


Peter Fenves is Professor of German, Comparative Literary Studies, Jewish Studies and Critical Theory at NU. He has published widely on critical theory and political theory, including his monograph, The Messianic Reduction: Walter Benjamin and the Shape of Time (Stanford University Press, 2010).


Eduardo Sabrovsky is Professor at the Instituto de Humanidades, Universidad Diego Portales, Chile. His research and teaching focus on political theology and Chilean politics. His publications include De lo extraordinario: Nominalismo y Modernidad, which examines the political-theological problem of “the exception,” and Chile, tiempos interesantes, an analysis of the current Chilean situation.  

Visiting Pre-Doctoral Fellow                        

Rodrigo Farías Rivas studied Psychology and Philosophy at the Pontificia Universidad 
de Chile. He’s a Clinical Psychologist and graduated from Philosophy with a
thesis dealing with the possibility of a theoretical continuity between Wittgenstein and
Lacan. In 2016 he began his doctoral studies in the joint Ph.D. Programme in Philosophy 
offered by Diego Portales University in Chile and Leiden University in the Netherlands,
with a research project dealing with Nietzsche and Lacan. More precisely, Rodrigo is
currently interested in conceiving a feasible concurrence between nihilism as a historical
logic of denaturalization and
 jouissance as the ultimate force driving unconscious
subjectivity. Rodrigo can be contacted at

Background Reading

Dotti, Jorge. "From Karl to Carl: Schmitt as a Reader of Marx." In The Challenge of Carl Schmitt, edited by Chantal Mouffe, 92–117. London: Verso, 1999.

Hemming, Laurence Paul. "Heidegger’s Claim 'Carl Schmitt Thinks as a Liberal'." Journal for Cultural Research 20, no. 3 (2016): 286–294.

Mastnak, Tomaž. "Hobbes in Kiel, 1938: From Ferdinand Tönnies to Carl Schmitt." History of European Ideas 41, no. 7 (2015): 966–991.

Mastnak, Tomaž. "Schmitt's Behemoth." Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 13, nos. 2–3 (2010): 275–296.

Mertel, Kurt C.M. "Two Ways of Being a Left-Heideggerian: The Crossroads between Political and Social Ontology." Philosophy and Social Criticism 43, no. 9 (2017): 966–984.

Mouffe, Chantal. "Carl Schmitt and the Paradox of Liberal Democracy." In The Challenge of Carl Schmitt, 38–53.

Pourciau, Sarah. "Bodily Negation: Carl Schmitt on the Meaning of Meaning." MLN 120, no. 5 (December 2005): 1066–1090.

Sabrovsky, Eduardo. "Carl Schmitt, enemigo de sí mismo." Revista de Filosofia 29, no. 47 (2017): 551–574.

Schmitt, Carl. Political Theology, translated by George Schwab. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Strauss, Leo. "Notes on Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political." In Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, translated by George Schwab, 97–122. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Zarka, Yves Charles. "Le mythe contre la raison: Carl Schmitt ou la triple trahison de Hobbes." In Carl Schmitt ou le mythe du politique, edited by Yves Charles Zarka. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2009.

Zizek, Slavoj. "Carl Schmitt in the Age of Post-Politics," In The Challenge of Carl Schmitt, 18–37.

News & Events

  • Spring, 2018
    Rodrigo Farías Rivas was in residence at Northwestern during the spring quarter of 2018. During his visit he assisted Professor Fenves in the development of his collaborative Political Theology syllabus with Professor Sabrovsky, he pursued his own doctoral research, and he assisted in readying an interview with Marisa Belausteguigoitia and Colectivo Las Penélopes for publication in Critical Times.

  • January, 2018
    Project graduate fellow Javier Burdman is translating Professor Sabrovsky's De lo
    . A first draft of the translation will be completed by the end of February. Javier is Postdoctoral Fellow at the Cluster of Excellence "The Formation of Normative Orders" of the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main. He recently completed his PhD in Political Science at Northwestern University, with a dissertation titled "Politics after Totalitarianism: Rethinking Evil, Action, and Judgment in Kant, Arendt, and Lyotard." His essays on Kant and Arendt have been published in diacriticsEuropean Journal of Political Theory, and Constellations. His current project examines the relationship between disagreement and universality in the work of Jean-François Lyotard.

  • November 10-13, 2017 | Northwestern
    Professor Sabrovsky participated in Transformations of Critical Theory, the inaugural workshop of the Critical Theory in the Global South Project. On November 13, he and Professor Fenves led a teach-in for graduate students on the theme "Carl Schmitt: As his Own Most Enemy."

Professor Sabrovsky convenes the "Carl Schmitt: As his Own Most Enemy" teach-in

Professor Fenves responds to Professor Sabrovsky

  • November, 2017
    The translation of Professor Sabrovsky’s book, De lo extraordinario, is underway. Javier Burdman, doctoral candidate in Political Science at Northwestern, is undertaking the translation.

  • March 20-24, 2017 | Santiago, Chile
    Professor Fenves visited the Instituto de Humanidades at Universidad Diego Portales (UDP) in Chile to initiate the Mellon collaboration with Professor Sabrovsky.

Professor Fenves at UDP