Degrees/Diplomas: PhD University of Washington, BA Yale University
Research Interests: Modern and contemporary political thought, law and society, legal theory
Professor Feldman’s research and teaching are in contemporary political theory public law, with an interest generally in the relationship between legal order and executive, police and popular powers. He is the author of Citizens Without Shelter: Homelessness, Democracy, and Political Exclusion (Cornell University Press, 2004), which critically examines the criminalization of homelessness using the resources of critical and democratic theory. His articles, on such topics as emergency powers, Locke’s theory of prerogative, and popular political judgment, have appeared in Political Theory, Law, Culture and the Humanities, Studies in Law, Politics and Society and Polity, as well as in several edited volumes. He currently serves as the Associate Editor of Polity. Prior to coming to CUNY he was a Mellon Foundation post-doctoral fellow at Grinnell College, and an assistant and associate professor at the University of Oregon. In 2007- 2008 he was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. His current project brings concepts from legal theories of emergency powers to bear upon policing in the United States and its review by the courts.
Read an interview with Dr. Feldman here, from the Fall 2015 issue of our department newsletter, Homo Politicus.
Leonard Feldman, Citizens Without Shelter: Homelessness, Democracy, and Political Exclusion (Ithaca: Cornell University Press: 2004).
One of the most troubling aspects of the politics of homelessness, Leonard C. Feldman contends, is the reduction of the homeless to what Hannah Arendt calls “the abstract nakedness of humanity” and what Giorgio Agamben terms “bare life.” Feldman argues that the politics of alleged compassion and the politics of those interested in ridding public spaces of the homeless are linked fundamentally in their assumption that homeless people are something less than citizens. Feldman’s book brings political theories together (including theories of sovereign power, justice, and pluralism) with discussions of real-world struggles and close analyses of legal cases concerning the rights of the homeless.
In Feldman’s view, the “bare life predicament” is a product not simply of poverty or inequality but of an inability to commit to democratic pluralism. Challenging this reduction of the homeless, Citizens without Shelter examines opportunities for contesting such a fundamental political exclusion, in the service of homeless citizenship and a more robust form of democratic pluralism. Feldman has in mind a truly democratic pluralism that would include a pluralization of the category of “home” to enable multiple forms of dwelling; a recognition of the common dwelling activities of homeless and non-homeless persons; and a resistance to laws that punish or confine the homeless.