204 Clark House
PO Box: AC# 2261
Please call the college operator at 413-542-2000 or e-mail info@amherst.edu if you require contact info@amherst.edu

Adam Sitze

Associate Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought

(On Leave 7/1/2015 - 6/30/2016)

Departmental affiliations: Black Studies; Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought


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 a decisive quotient of their coherence from law. Understood in this way, the study of law has little to do with formal legal training (of the sort one might receive in law school). It’s a chance for the student of the liberal arts to learn about the sense in which 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

Its historical, geographical, and disciplinary variety notwithstanding, the body of work I have produced over the last decade has gathered around a very clear nexus. The aim of my research has been to inquire into texts (not only legal and archival but also literary and philosophical), discourses (such as psychoanalysis, transitional justice, 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) whose capacity to tell the truth depends upon, derives from, undercuts, and at times is even undercut by determinable juridical forms. Whatever other specific arguments my books and essays may make, my work returns to the same fundamental question. The traces of law that inform truth, the traces of truth that inform law—this dialectic has formed the central problem of my scholarship.

The point of departure for this research is the thought of the French philosopher Michel Foucault. In a relatively neglected 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 Émile Durkheim might call “anomie.” Recurring throughout my work is therefore an emphasis upon situations of revolution and civil war, of crisis and emergency, of transition and interregnum (such as South Africa in the 1990s and Italy during the 1970s). These are situations where the pronounced absence 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).

Edited and translated:

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

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 

“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

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, Amherst College Press

Editorial Committee, Law and Literature

Editorial Collective, Cultural Critique

Non-fiction Editor, Massachusetts Review

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