A.M. (Honorary), Amherst College (2019)

Ph.D. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (2003)

B.A. Drake University (1996)

Teaching Interests

I teach in a department that understands law not only in a doctrinal sense (as a collection of cases and statutes), but also as a question for the student of the liberal arts. I’m interested in the ways that various habits and techniques of knowing, prior to any application to law, already gain their coherence from law. Understood in this way, the study of law is a chance for the student of the liberal arts to learn about the way that juridical forms inform the pursuit of truth more generally. The aim of my teaching is to introduce students to an unorthodox style of questioning—one that, by treating law as an occasion to pose questions about the essence, basis, and genesis of knowledge itself, allows the knower to put herself into question, and in so doing to redouble the power of her intellect. 

Research Interests

My scholarship is focused on the relationship between truth and law. I study this relationship in a range of ways. I look at texts (not only legal and archival but also literary and philosophical), discourses (such as psychoanalysis, transitional justice, academic freedom, international law, and political philosophy), practices (such as disobedience and protest, colonial administration and contemporary counterinsurgency), and institutions (such as South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the contemporary university). The traces of law that inform truth, the traces of truth that inform law—this is my central question.

The point of departure for this research is the thought of the French philosopher Michel Foucault (1926-1984). In a 1973 lecture called “Truth and Juridical Forms,” Foucault announced his intention to study the ways in which “judicial practices” (such as, for example, the determination of culpability, the judgment of wrongs, the confession and avowal of guilt, and the imposition of compensation and penalties) double as rules for determining the relations between truth and error, between valid and invalid knowledge. Foucault reiterated this intention in his lectures six years later, arguing that the famous books he had published in the intervening years—most notably Surveiller et punir (1975) and Histoire de la sexualité (1976)—were part of an attempt to write “a history of truth that is coupled with a history of law.” According to the Foucault of 1979, in other words, his great works of the 1970s would seem to have been governed by an aim that was manifestly, even primarily, juridical: to study the “innumerable intersections” between jurisdiction and veridiction that were, in his view, fundamental to Western modernity.

Although my work is motivated by this same aim, it leads in directions that diverge from Foucault. Like Foucault, I’m interested in the effectivity and historicity of changing juridical forms. But I’m also interested in a very different problem: juridical formlessness—or, more to the point, the experience of what the French sociologist Émile Durkheim might call “anomie.” Recurring throughout my work is therefore an emphasis upon situations of civil war and revolution, of crisis and emergency, of transition and interregnum (such as ancient Greece, Elizabethan England, Italy during the 1970s, South Africa in the 1990s, and the U.S. at present). These are situations where the absence or disarray of juridical forms throws the very problem of juridical form itself into sharp relief, and where the conspicuous lack of juridical form creates the conditions for exceptionally inventive thought. 

Selected Publications


Adam Sitze, The Impossible Machine: A Genealogy of South Africas Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2013) (paperback 2016).

Edited and translated:

Adriana Cavarero, Inclinations: Critique of Rectitude, Trans. Amanda Minervini and Adam Sitze (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016).

Carlo Galli, Janus’s Gaze: Essays on Carl Schmitt, Ed. Adam Sitze, Trans. Amanda Minervini (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015).

Adriana Cavarero and Angelo Scola, Thou Shalt Not Kill: A Political and Theological Dialogue, Trans. Margaret Groesbeck and Adam Sitze (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015).

Biopolitics: A Reader, Ed. Timothy Campbell and Adam Sitze (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013).

Carlo Galli, Political Spaces and Global War, Ed. Adam Sitze, Trans. Elisabeth Fay (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010).


Selected Essays 

"The Strange, Secret History of Tenure." The Chronicle of Higher Education (August 4, 2022).

The University in the Mirror of Justices.” Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities 33:1 (2021), 175-222.

On Crowned Anarchy: Three Hypotheses.” Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies 21:4 (Winter 2020), 394-415.

The Crime of Apartheid: Genealogy of a Successful Failure.” London Review of International Law 7:2 (July 2019), 181-214.

"The Opposite of Apartheid: Further Notes on Mandela and the Law." Discourse 40:2 (Spring 2018), 143-164.

“Academic Unfreedom, Unacademic Freedom.” The Massachusetts Review 58:4 (Winter 2017), 589-607 (Part I) and 768-780 (Part II).

Study and Revolt.” Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies 17:3 (2016), 271-295.

Carl Schmitt: An Improper Name.” In Carlo Galli, Janus's Gaze: Essays on Carl Schmitt, Trans. Amanda Minervini, Ed. Adam Sitze (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015), xi-xlii.

Mandela and the Law.” In The Cambridge Companion to Nelson Mandela, Ed. Rita Barnard (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 134-161.

Foreword.” Raffaele Laudani, Disobedience in Western Political Thought: A Genealogy, Trans. Jason Francis McGimsey (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), vii-xxvi.

Response to John Mowitt’s ‘The Humanities and the University in Ruins’.” Lateral 1 (Spring 2012).

The Imperial Critique of Imperial War.” Filosofia politica 25:2 (Summer 2011), 315-334.

Nomos as a Problem for Disciplinary Reason.” English Language Notes 48:2 (Fall/Winter 2010), 163-175.

Capital Punishment as a Problem for the Philosophy of Law.” CR: New Centennial Review 9:2 (2009), 221-270.

Emergency Continued.” Law and Humanities 2:1 (2008), 49-72. 

The Question of Law Analysis.” American Imago 64:3 (2007), 381-411.


Awards and Honors

Visiting Fellow, Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (Institute for Human Sciences), Vienna, Austria, Spring 2022

The Jeffrey B. Ferguson Memorial Teaching Prize, Spring 2019, Amherst College (Ferguson Lecture online here)

Co-organizer with Nicholas Xenos (Political Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst), “The Universal Basic Income: History and Theory of a Utopian Desire,” Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar, convened at The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2018-2019

A. W. Mellon Visiting Scholar, Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape, South Africa, August 2014

ACLS/SSRC/NEH International and Area Studies Fellowship, 2008-9

External Fellow, Leslie Humanities Center, Dartmouth College, Spring 2009

Emerson Faculty Fellow in Modern Letters, Department of English, Syracuse University, 2003-2005    

MacArthur Scholar, MacArthur Interdisciplinary Program for Peace and International Cooperation, 1996-2003


Scholarly and Professional Activities

Editorial Board, Kronos: South African Histories

Editorial Committee, Law and Literature

Editorial Collective, Cultural Critique

Editorial Board, Massachusetts Review

Consejo de Redaccion, Res Publica: Revista de Filosofía Política (Universidad de Murcia, Spain)


Office hours

Submitted by Adam Sitze on Friday, 1/10/2020, at 8:40 AM

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