German and Latin American Critical Theory Cooperation

Christoph Menke: Benjamin's Critique of Violence

A book discussion with Christoph Menke, María del Rosario Acosta, Ronald Mendoza-de Jesús, and Rocío Zambrana

Date: November 8, 2017, 3pm - 5pm

Location: Kresge Hall 3535, Northwestern

In his Law and Violence, Menke offers a critical reading of Walter Benjamin's “Critique of Violence,” and focuses on the fundamental question for legal and political philosophy: the relationship between law and violence. The first part of the essay shows why and in what precise sense the law is irreducibly violent; the second part establishes the possibility of the law becoming self-reflectively aware of its own violence.

The english translation of this book is accompanied by numerous commentaries, including one by Acosta, who will be present to discuss the project with Menke. Acosta’s commentary focuses on the possible relation between this project and transitional justice processes in South America and South Africa.

Participants who would also like to pose a formal (5 minute) response to Menke and Acosta should indicate this by e-mailing Eli Lichtenstein ( The workshop will be able to accommodate only a limited number of formal responses.

Required Bibliography:

  • Benjamin, Walter. “Critique of Violence.” In Reflections, Translated by Edmund Jephcott, Edited by Peter Demetz, 277-300. New York: Schocken Books, 1978.
  • Menke, Christoph. Law and Violence: Christoph Menke in Dialogue. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2018.*

*Please contact Gabby Garcia at for an advance proof copy.

Suggested Background Bibliography:

  • Acosta López, María del Rosario. “Another Kind of Community: Hegel on Law, Love and Life in the Frankfurt Fragments.” In Der Frankfurter Hegel in seinem Kontext, Edited by Thomas Hanke and Thomas M. Schmidt, 191-208. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2015.
  • ———. “‘The Gorgon’s Head’: Hegel on Law and Violence in the Frankfurt Fragments.” CR: The New Centennial Review 14, no. 2 (2014): 29-48.
  • Mendoza-De Jesús, Ronald. “Invention of the Death Penalty: Abolitionism at Its Limits.” The Oxford Literary Review 35, no. 2 (2013): 221-40.
  • ———. “Sovereignty: An Infrapolitical Question.” TRANSMODERNITY: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World 5, no. 1 (2015): 52-80.
  • Menke, Christoph. “Law and Violence.” Law & Literature 22, no. 1 (2010): 1-17.
  • Zambrana, Rocío. “Dialectics as Resistance: Hegel, Benjamin, Adorno.” In Hegel and Resistance: History, Politics and Dialectics, Edited by Rebecca Comay and Bart Zantvoort, 59-77. London: Boomsbury Academic, 2018.

menke 2017

Critical Theory Cluster

Date: May 25-16, 2017

Place: Kresge 5-531, Northwestern

Presenters: Rosaura Martinez & Isabelle Alfandary

Ruiz Flyer

Comparative Literary Studies Colloquium

Date: March 3, 2017

Place: McCormick Foundation Center, Northwestern

Audio presentations:
Peter Fenves, "At the Origin of Critical Theory; or, the Story of Two Walters" - Audio File

Jorge Coronado, "On Critical Thought in the Andes: José Carlos Mariátegui Reading and Being Read" - Audio File

Q&A - Audio File

Prof. Peter Fenves, Dept. of German "At the Origin of Critical Theory; or, the Story of the Two Walters"

Prof. Jorge Coronado, Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese: "On Critical Thought in the Andes: José Carlos Mariátegui Reading and Being Read"

Notes for a Decolonial Critical Theory: Critique in Adorno & Horkheimer, Castro-Gómez, Quijano

Date: February 17, 2017

Place: Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, Northwestern

The Andean Cultures and Histories Working Group and the Department of German hosted Prof. Rocío Zambrana, (U of Oregon, Philosophy) for a seminar around the theme: “A Critique of Latin American Reason” (Castro-Gómez). The presentation was drawn from Zambrana's manuscript in progress Neoliberal Coloniality, Critique, Resistance. Graduate students and faculty from a number of departments including Philosophy, German, Spanish and Portugese, French, Comparative Literary Studies came together for a lively discussion on the idea of critique by considering the points of convergence and divergence between the Frankfurt School critical theory and Decolonial thought.