Feeling Like a State

Desire, Denial, and the Recasting of Authority

Feeling Like a State

Global and Insurgent Legalities

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Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: Published: September 2019

Author: Davina Cooper

Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Law > Legal Theory, Politics > Political Theory

A transformative progressive politics requires the state's reimagining. But how should the state be reimagined, and what can invigorate this process? In Feeling Like a State, Davina Cooper explores the unexpected contribution a legal drama of withdrawal might make to conceptualizing a more socially just, participative state. In recent years, as gay rights have expanded, some conservative Christians—from charities to guesthouse owners and county clerks—have denied people inclusion, goods, and services because of their sexuality. In turn, liberal public bodies have withdrawn contracts, subsidies, and career progression from withholding conservative Christians. Cooper takes up the discourses and practices expressed in this legal conflict to animate and support an account of the state as heterogeneous, plural, and erotic. Arguing for the urgent need to put new imaginative forms into practice, Cooper examines how dissident and experimental institutional thinking materialize as people assert a democratic readiness to recraft the state.


“This is a dream of a book. Feeling Like a State explores a daring possibility: Might legal dramas over Christian refusals (to bake cakes, provide contraception coverage with health care, issue marriage licenses, allow for gay Scout leaders, subscribe to secularist tolerance demands, and so on) offer progressives instructive lessons about withdrawal, attachment, desire, membership, commoning, care, and play? Drawing on law, sociology, and philosophy as well as political, feminist, affect, and queer theory, Davina Cooper's work is broad, brilliant, audacious, careful, and, importantly, prefigurative, marking the ways in which we already ‘inhabit, repurpose, resist the still and mobile parts of institutional life.’” — Bonnie Honig, Nancy Duke Lewis Professor of Modern Culture and Media and Political Science, Brown University

“With its checkered history of unmatched power, the state has been both a vehicle of oppression as well as justice. Feeling Like A State imagines transformative progressive ways the state can be, inspiring movement toward a more responsible, ecologically collaborative world. A beautifully written, brilliant contribution beyond utopian fictions that explores practical real-life experiments in governing as a way of rethinking government and states. This book must be read if we are to move past the current crises in any durable and just manner.” — Susan S. Silbey, coauthor of The Common Place of Law: Stories from Everyday Life


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Davina Cooper is Research Professor in Law and Political Theory at King's College London and the author of several books, most recently Everyday Utopias: The Conceptual Life of Promising Spaces, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. Reimagining the State  1
1. Legal Dramas of Refusal  28
2. Retrieving Dissident State Parts  52
3. Pluralizing a Concept  75
4. State Play and Possessive Beliefs  105
5. The Erotic Life of States  130
6. Feeling Like a Different Kind of State  153
Notes  177
References  225
Index  253
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0474-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0413-4