Alyson Cole

Position: Executive Officer
Campus Affiliation: Graduate Center | Queens College
Phone: 212-817-8670
Room Number: 5202.01
Office Hours: Spring 2019 (Thursday, 12pm-1:30pm or by appt.)
Degrees/Diplomas: PhD University of California, Berkeley
Research Interests: feminist theory, politics of identity, American political culture

Alyson Cole is a professor of Political Science, Women & Gender Studies, and American Studies at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Cole’s research and teaching bridge political theory and American politics/culture, linking central questions of political thought—especially formulations of justice, the nature of vulnerability, precarity and subjugation, and the possibility of resistance or change—with an examination of concrete political ideologies, rhetoric, and law/policy-making, emphasizing gender, sexuality and race/ethnicity.

Cole is the author of The Cult of True Victimhood: From the War on Welfare to the War on Terror  (Stanford University Press) and Derangement and Liberalism (Routledge Press). Her articles have appeared in Signs, American Studies, Feminist Studies, the Michigan Law Review, Gender, Work & Organization, Les Cahiers du Genre, Critical Horizons, the National Women’s Studies Association Journal, Journal of Cultural Research, and WSQ.

Cole is co-editor of philoSOPHIA: A Journal of transContinental Feminism, and on the editorial boards of Women’s Studies Quarterly, and International Journal of Criminology & Sociological Theory. She is the recipient of the 2008 President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, a Mellon Resident Fellowship at the Humanities Center (2009-10), and currently serves as a principal scholar in the “Vulnerable & Dynamic Forms of Life” International Network of Research, an interdisciplinary research collective supported by funding from the National Center for Scientific Research. She also serves as the Executive Officer of the PhD/MA Program in Political Science at the Graduate Center.






Alyson Cole. The Cult of True Victimhood: From the War on Welfare to the War on Terror (Stanford Univ. Press, 2006)

Condemnations of “victim politics” are a familiar feature of American public life. Politicians and journalists across the ideological spectrum eagerly denounce “victimism.” Accusations of “playing the victim” have become a convenient way to ridicule or condemn. President George W. Bush even blamed an Islamic “culture of victimization” for 9/11. The Cult of True Victimhood shows how the panic about domestic and foreign victims has transformed American politics, warping the language we use to talk about suffering and collective responsibility.

With forceful and lively prose, Alyson Cole investigates the ideological underpinnings, cultural manifestations, and political consequences of anti-victimism in an array of contexts, including race relations, the feminist movement, conservative punditry, and the U.S. legal system. Being a victim, she contends, is no longer a matter of injuries or injustices endured, but a stigmatizing judgment of individual character. Those who claim victim status are cast as shamefully passive or cynically manipulative. Even the brutalized Central Park jogger came forth to insist that she is not a victim, but a survivor.

Offering a fresh perspective on major themes in American politics, Cole demonstrates how this new use of “victim” to derogate underlies seemingly disparate social and political debates from the welfare state, criminal justice, and abortion to the war on terror.

 Alyson Cole and George Shulman. “Derangement & Liberalism” (Routledge, 2019)

Michael Rogin’s scholarship profoundly altered the scope, content, and disposition of political theory. He reconstituted the field by opening it to an array of texts, performances, and methods previously considered beyond the purview of the discipline. His work addressed the relationship between dimensions of politics typically split apart – institutional power and cultural forms, material interests and symbolic meanings, class projects and identity politics, the public and the private. Rogin’s scholarship enlarges our sense of the borders and genres defining political theory as a field and enriches our capacity to think critically and creatively about the political.

The editors have focused on three categories of substantive innovation:

Demonology and Countersubversion
Rogin used the concepts “countersubversive tradition” and “political demonology” to theorize how constitutive exclusions and charged images of otherness generated imagined national community. He exposed not only the dynamics of suppressing and delegitimizing political opposition, but also how politics itself is devalued and displaced.

The Psychic Life of Liberal Society
Rogin addressed the essential contradiction in liberalism as both an ideology and a regime– how a polity professing equality, liberty, and pluralist toleration engages in genocide, slavery, and imperial war.

Political Mediation: Institutions and Culture
Rogin demonstrated how cultural forms –pervasive myths, literary and cinematic works- mediate political life, and how political institutions mediate cultural energies and aspirations.

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