Book Launch: "Birth of the State" by Charlotte Epstein

Date/Time: 10th of October 2022 from 4:15PM (UTC+3)
Venue: Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Fabianinkatu 24 A, 3rd floor
With HCAS Fellow Charlotte Epstein and Professor Emeritus Martti Koskenniemi
Join HCAS fellow Charlotte Epstein in conversation with Professor Emeritus Martti Koskenniemi around her new book, Birth of the State: The Place of the Body in Crafting Modern Politics (Oxford University Press, 2021)


Book synopsis

This book uses the body to peel back the layers of time and taken-for-granted-ness and to reveal modernity’s two defining political forms, the state and the subject of rights. It traces, under the lens of the body, how the state and the subject mutually constituted each other all the way down, by going all the way back, to their original crafting in the seventeenth century. It considers two revolutions. The first, scientific, threw humanity out of the centre of the universe, and transformed the very meanings of matter, space, and the body; while the second, legal and political, re-established humans as the centre-point of the framework of modern rights. 


The book analyses the fundamental rights to security, liberty, and property respectively as the initial knots where the state-subject relation was first sealed. It develops three arguments, that the body served to naturalise security; to individualise liberty; and to privatise property. Covering a wide range of materials--from early modern Dutch painting, to the canon of English political thought, the Anglo-Scottish legal struggles of naturalization, and medical and religious practices--it shows both how the body has operated as history's great naturaliser, and how it can be mobilised instead as a critical tool that lays bare the deeply racialised and gendered constructions that made the state and the subject of rights. The book returns to the origins of constructivist and constitutive theorising to reclaim their radical and critical potential.

About the speakers

French-Kenyan born and currently living in Australia and in Denmark, Charlotte Epstein read philosophy, English literature and history at l'université de Paris-Sorbonne. Epstein also has a masters degree in philosophy from l'université de Paris-Sorbonne and another in international relations from Cambridge University, where she also wrote her PhD. She has published in a wide range of journals in International relations and in political theory, including: European Journal of International Relations, International Organization, Raisons Politiques, Global Environmental Politics, Body and Society, International Political Sociology, Security Dialogue and Political Theory.

Martti Koskeniemi is Emeritus Professor of International Law at the University of Helsinki and Founding Director of the Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights. 


To attend the event, please register here: by the 3rd of October

For more info, contact Kaisa Kaakinen at: