Gavin Walker

Professor

Overview

Gavin Walker is Professor of Comparative Literature at Cornell University. Specialising in social, cultural, and literary theory in its intersections with global intellectual history, continental philosophy, politics and aesthetics, he was educated at Penn (BA 2001, MA 2004) and Cornell (PhD 2012). After a Mellon Foundation Fellowship in Global Aesthetics at the Society for the Humanities, he joined the faculty of McGill University in 2012, where he served as Assistant Professor and then Associate Professor of Intellectual History until 2024. Faculty Fellow of the Institute for the Public Life of Arts & Ideas in Montréal from 2016-18, and Visiting Professor at the Institute for Research in the Humanities at Kyoto University in 2019, Walker returned to Cornell University in 2023 as Professor of Theory in the Department of Comparative Literature.

Walker is the author or editor of 8 books: The Sublime Perversion of Capital (Duke, 2016), Marx et la politique du dehors (Lux, 2022), and The Rarity of Politics: Passages from Structure to Subject (Verso, forthcoming), The End of Area: Biopolitics, Geopolitics, History (Duke, 2019, with Naoki Sakai), The Red Years (Verso, 2020), Foucault’s Late Politics, a special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly (Duke, 2022), ‘Ronsô’ no buntai [Styles of ‘the Debate’] (Hôsei, 2023, with Yutaka Nagahara), editor and translator of Kojin Karatani’s Marx: Towards the Centre of Possibility (Verso, 2020), and author of nearly 70 articles and chapters in social and cultural theory, philosophy, intellectual history, literary criticism. 

A member of the editorial boards of the Historical Materialism Book Series (De Gruyter Brill/Haymarket), Diacritics: Review of Contemporary Criticism (Johns Hopkins), positions: asia critique (Duke), and from 2014-17 a member of the Editorial Committee of the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association / Revue de la Société historique du Canada, his work has been supported by institutions such as the Fulbright Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Japan Foundation (Canada, US, and UK), the Fonds québécois de recherche – société et culture, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, including an Insight Grant (2016-2024). Walker served most recently in 2022 as an Invited Humanities Advisor for the Sundance Institute Humanities Sustainability project, sponsored by the Sundance Institute and the National Endowment for the Humanities, working to prioritise the importance of the humanities for contemporary cultural production. 

Research Focus

1) Social, cultural, and literary theory, continental philosophy, intellectual history; Marx and the history of Marxism; humanism and anti-humanism, the subject and the figure of the structure, universality and the critique of essentialism, historical time and historicity; the relation of philosophy, literature, criticism, political economy, psychoanalysis, the arts and architecture to the discourses of anti-systemic and emancipatory politics across the global twentieth century, particularly the interwar period, after 1968, and after 1989.

2) The national question, at present and historically: nationalism, imperialism, uneven development, language, translation, globalisation and culture, the colonial and the postcolonial, the 'national allegory'. The nation as a zone of engagement for the humanities (with particular attention to Canada and Québec).

3) The status of languages, criticism, and the theoretical humanities in the contemporary university; the institutions of criticism and theory. Literary criticism as a method of historical, philosophical, and political investigations.

Publications

Books:

The Rarity of Politics: Passages from Structure to Subject (London: Verso, forthcoming).

Marx et la politique du dehors (Montréal: Lux Éditeur, 2022).

The Sublime Perversion of Capital: Marxist Theory and the Politics of History in Modern Japan (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2016). 

Foucault’s Late Politics, edited by Gavin Walker, a special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly, vol. 121, no. 4 (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2022).

Ronsô no buntai: Nihon shihonshugi to tôchi sôchi [Styles of the 'Debate': Japanese Capitalism and the Apparatuses of Governance], edited by Yutaka Nagahara and Gavin Walker (Tokyo: Hôsei University Press, Ohara Institute for Social Research, 2023).

The Red Years: Theory, Politics, and Aesthetics in the Japanese ’68, edited by Gavin Walker (Verso, 2020).

Marx: Towards the Centre of Possibility by Kojin Karatani, translated, edited and with an introduction by Gavin Walker (Verso, 2020).

The End of Area: Biopolitics, Geopolitics, History, a special issue of positions: asia critique, edited by Gavin Walker and Naoki Sakai, vol. 27, no. 1 (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2019).

Articles and chapters:

“The Relapses of the Universal: Translation and the Language of the Political” in Universality and Translation: Sites of Struggle in Philosophy and Politics, edited by Gavin Arnall and Katie Chenoweth (New York: Fordham University Press, 2025).

“Lenin, Partisan of the Conjuncture” in LENIN: The Heritage We (Don’t) Renounce, ed. Hjalmar Jorge Joffre-Eichhorn and Patrick Anderson (Ottawa: Daraja Press, 2024), 120-123.

“Singular Unverifiability” in CLS: Comparative Literature Studies, 60:2, ACLA Symposium on Gayatri Spivak’s Death of a Discipline after 20 years (Penn State: Penn State University Press, 2023).

“What Comes After ‘Area’? The Nomos of the Modern in Times of Crisis” in Knowledge Production and Epistemic Decolonization at the End of the Pax Americana, eds. Naoki Sakai, Jon Solomon, and Peter Button (London: Routledge, 2023), 173-198.

“‘Furuki mono’ to zanshi: Ronsô no ‘jiseigaku’teki saisotei” (“The Archaic and the Remnant: Chronopolitics of the Debate on Japanese Capitalism” in Ronsô’ no buntai: Nihon shihonshugi to tôchi sôchi [The Style of the ‘Debate’: On Japanese Capitalism and its Governing Apparatuses], co-edited by Yutaka Nagahara and Gavin Walker (Tokyo: Hôsei University Press, Ôhara Institute for Social Research, 2023), 243-285.

“Rekishiteki na koto no gûyu: Ronsô no kokusaiteki saisotei no tame ni”  (“Allegories of the Historical: The Debate on Japanese Capitalism in Global Perspective”) in Ronsô’ no buntai: Nihon shihonshugi to tôchi sôchi [The Style of the ‘Debate’: On Japanese Capitalism and its Governing Apparatuses], co-edited by Yutaka Nagahara and Gavin Walker (Tokyo: Hôsei University Press, Ôhara Institute for Social Research, 2023), 405-423.

“The Will to Strategy: Foucault’s Interregnum, 1976-79” in Foucault’s Late Politics, edited by Gavin Walker, a special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly, vol. 121, no. 4 (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2022), 713-734.

“The Late Foucault and the Allegories of Theory” in Foucault’s Late Politics, edited by Gavin Walker, a special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly, vol. 121, no. 4 (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2022), 645-653.

The Wager and the Wage: Reading Kawashima Reading Uno” in Uno Kozo’s Theory of Crisis: A Symposium, edited by Gavin Walker, a special issue of episteme, no. 9 (positions: politics) (2022).

“Non-Capital and the Torsion of the Subject” in Accumulation and Subjectivity: Rethinking Marx in Latin America, ed. Karen Benezra (New York: SUNY Press, 2022), 295-313.

“Nationalism and the National Question” in The SAGE Handbook of Marxism, eds. Farris, Skeggs, Toscano (London: SAGE, 2022), 366-386.

“Uno Kôzô’s Theory of Crisis Today,” co-written with Ken Kawashima, Introduction to Uno Kôzô, Theory of Crisis, trans. Ken Kawashima (Leiden: Brill, Historical Materialism book series, 2021; paperback forthcoming from Haymarket, 2022), 177-202.

"Le marxisme et les années rouges au Japon. Entretien avec Gavin Walker" in Contretemps, 12 July 2021.

“Rethinking Japan’s Red Years: An Interview with Gavin Walker” in Spectre, 9 July 2021. 

“The Theory and Practice of Marxism in Japan” in Jacobin, 3 July 2021. 

“Fascism and the Metapolitics of Imperialism” in Historical Materialism, 8 May 2021. 

“The Political Afterlives of Yukio Mishima” in Jacobin, 25 November 2020. 

“The Red Years: An Interview with Gavin Walker on Japan’s 1968,” Verso Books, 20 November 2020.

“The Post-’68 Conjuncture” in The Red Years: Theory, Politics, and Aesthetics in the Japanese ’68, ed. Gavin Walker (London: Verso, 2020), 229-236.

“Revolution and Retrospection” in The Red Years: Theory, Politics, and Aesthetics in the Japanese ’68, ed. Gavin Walker (London: Verso, 2020), 1-11.

“Marxist Theory in Japan: A Critical Overview,” Historical Materialism, November 15, 2020.

“The World of the Outside” in Marx, Asia, and the History of the Presentepisteme, no. 3 (positions: politics), edited by Gavin Walker, October 2020.

“The Discreet Charm of Coronavirus” in episteme, no. 2, positions: politics, May 2020.

“Karatani’s Marx” in Marx: Towards the Centre of Possibility by Kôjin Karatani, translated, edited, and with an introduction by Gavin Walker (London: Verso, 2020), xi-xxvii.

“The Homeland(s) of Marxism: Labour Power, Race, and Nation after Capital in Capital in the East, eds. Anjan Chakrabarti et al (Springer Publishing, 2019), 47-67.

“The Accumulation of Difference and the Logic of Area” in The End of Area: Biopolitics, Geopolitics, History, a special issue of positions: asia critique, vol. 27, no. 1, edited by Gavin Walker and Naoki Sakai (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2019), 67-98.

“The End of Area” (co-written with Naoki Sakai) in The End of Area: Biopolitics, Geopolitics, History, a special issue of positions: asia critique, vol. 27, no. 1, edited by Gavin Walker and Naoki Sakai (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2019), 1-31.

“Le marxisme au Japon : Guide de lecture” in Période: révue de théorie marxiste (January 2019).

“The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte: History, Politics, and Repetition” in The Bloomsbury Companion to Marx, ed. Imre Szeman et al(London: Bloomsbury, 2018).

“Marx in Japan” in The Bloomsbury Companion to Marx, ed. Imre Szeman et al(London: Bloomsbury, 2018).

“The Schema of the West and the Apparatus of Capture: Variations on Deleuze and Guattari” in Deleuze Studies, vol. 12, no. 2 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018), 210-235.

“Surplus alongside Excess: Uno Kôzô, Imperialism, and the Theory of Crisis,” co-written with Ken Kawashima, in Viewpoint 6: Imperialism, February 2018.

“On the Politics of Postcoloniality: Return(s) of the National Question in Marxist Theory” in Viewpoint 6: Imperialism, February 2018.

Roundtable on “Art, Society/Text: A Few Remarks on the Current Relations of the Class Struggle in the Fields of Literary Production and Literary Ideologies” (with Karen Benezra, Bruno Bosteels, Tom Eyers, Sami Khatib, and Samo Tomšič) in ARTMargins, vol. 6, no. 3 (Boston: MIT Press, October 2017), 70-75.

“The Subjective Drive of Capital: Kakehashi Akihide’s Phenomenology of Matter” in Confronting Capital and Empire: Rethinking Kyoto School Philosophy, ed. Murthy, Schaefer, and Ward (Leiden: Brill, 2017), 229-262.

“Tanigawa Gan and the Poetics of the Origin” in positions: asia critique, vol. 25, no. 2 (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2017), 351-387.

“The ‘Ideal Total Capitalist’: On the State-Form in the Critique of Political Economy” in Crisis & Critique, special issue on The Critique of Political Economy, November 2016, 434-455.

“Challenging Abe’s Japan” in Jacobin, 13 November 2015. 

“Žižek with Marx: Outside in the Critique of Political Economy” in Repeating Žižek (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2015), 195-212.

“The Regime of Translation and the Figure of Politics” in Translation: A Transdisciplinary Journal, no. 4, special issue on “Politics” edited by Sandro Mezzadra and Naoki Sakai (Rimini: Raffaelli Editore, 2014), 30-52.

“Primitive Accumulation and the State-Form: National Debt as an Apparatus of Capture” in Viewpoint 4: The State, October 2014.

“The Reinvention of Communism: Politics, History, Globality” in South Atlantic Quarterly (113.4), special issue on Communist Currents, eds. Bruno Bosteels and Jodi Dean (Duke University Press, 2014), 671-685. 

“Filmic Materiality and Historical Materialism: Tosaka Jun and the Prosthetics of Sensation,” in Tosaka Jun: A Critical Reader, eds. Ken Kawashima, Fabian Schaefer, and Robert Stolz (Ithaca: Cornell East Asia Series, 2013), 218-254.

“The Absent Body of Labour Power: Uno Kôzô’s Logic of Capital” in Historical Materialism, vol. 21, no. 4, Autumn 2013 (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 1-34. 

“Limits and Openings of the Party: A Reply to Jason E. Smith” in Theory and Event 16.4 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013). 

“The Body of Politics: On the Concept of the Party” in Theory & Event 16.4 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).

“Seijikeizai(gaku) hihan to kokka keitai: <Fukushi> to shihon no yokudô” (The Critique of Political Economy and the State-Form: ‘Welfare’ and the Drive of Capital) in Jôkyô, supplemental volume no. 2 (Tokyo: Jôkyô Shuppan, June 2013), 119-140.

“Citizen-Subject and the National Question: On the Logic of Capital in Balibar” in Postmodern Culture, (22.3) special issue on the work of Étienne Balibar (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, May 2013).

“On Marxism’s Field of Operation: Badiou and the Critique of Political Economy” in Historical Materialism, vol. 20, no. 2, Summer 2012 (Leiden: Brill), 39-74.

“Gendai shihonshugi ni okeru ‘minzoku mondai’ no kaiki: Posutokoroniaru kenkyû no aratana seijiteki dôkô” (“The Return of the National Question in Contemporary Capitalism: New Political Directions in Postcolonial Studies”) in Shisô, no. 1059, July 2012 (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten), 122-147.

“The World of Principle, or Pure Capitalism: Exteriority and Suspension in Uno Kôzô” in The Journal of International Economic Studies, no. 26 (Tokyo: Hôsei University, Institute for Comparative Economic Studies, 2012), 15-37.

“Shihon no sekai ni okeru ‘gaitô no jijitsu’: Kyôkô, kokka, kokusai”(“The ‘Facts of the Streets’ in the World of Capital: Crisis, State, and the National Debt”) in Gendai shisô: Revue de la pensée d’aujourd’hui, no. 40-2 (Tokyo: Seidosha, February 2012), 96-109.

“The Dignity of Communism: Badiou’s Communist Hypothesis,” in Socialism and Democracy, vol. 25, no. 3 (London: Routledge, 2011), 130-139.

“Primitive Accumulation and the Formation of Difference: On Marx and Schmitt,” in Rethinking Marxism, vol. 23, no. 3 (London: Taylor & Francis, 2011), 384-404.

“Postcoloniality and the National Question in Marxist Historiography: Elements of the Debate on Japanese Capitalism,” in Interventions, vol. 13, no. 1 (London: Taylor & Francis, 2011), 120-137.

“Shihon no puroretariateki reido: gaibu no seijiteki butsurigaku” (“Capital’s Proletarian Degree Zero: The Political Physics of the Outside”) in Seiji keizaigaku no seiji tetsugakuteki fukken: Riron no rironteki ‘rinkai-gaibu’ ni mukete (Political-Philosophical Resurrections of Political Economy: Towards the Theoretical Limit/Outside of Theory), ed. Nagahara Yutaka (Tokyo: Hôsei University Press, 2011), 351-390.

“Postcoloniality in Translation: Historicities of the Present,” in Postcolonial Studies, vol. 14, no. 1 (London: Taylor & Francis, 2011), 111-126.

“Kenryoku toshite no shihon: Seijiteki kake to kyô no kishôsei” (“Capital as Power: The Political Wager and the Rarity of the Commons”), Muri to iu iki to kyô no seisan (The Threshold of Excess [muri] and the Production of the Commons) Part 2, in Jôkyô, October 2010 (Tokyo: Jôkyô Shuppan, 2010), 185-203.

“Shihon no kigenteki iki: hida toshite no rôdôryoku” (“Capital’s Originary Threshold: Labor Power as Fold”), Muri to iu iki to kyô no seisan (The Threshold of Excess [muri] and the Production of the Commons) Part 1, in Jôkyô, May 2010 (Tokyo: Jôkyô Shuppan, 2010), 120-134.         

“The Double Scission of Mishima Yukio: Limits and Anxieties in the Autofictional Machine” in positions: east asia cultures critique 18: 1, Spring 2010 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), 145-169.

------. “The Double Scission of Mishima Yukio: Limits and Anxieties in the Autofictional Machine,” reprinted in Perversion and Modern Japan: Psychoanalysis, Literature, Culture, eds. Nina Cornyetz and J. Keith Vincent (London: Routledge, 2010), 164-185.

“The Filmic Time of Coloniality" in Mechademia 4: War/Time (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), 3-18.

“On ‘the End’: Mishima Yukio and the Double Dislocation of Literature,” in Proceedings of the Association for Japanese Literary Studies, vol. 9: Literature and Literary Theory, eds. Atsuko Ueda and Richard H. Okada (Summer 2008), 240-246.

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