Kevin Olson

picture of Kevin  Olson

Professor, Political Science
School of Social Sciences

Ph.D., Northwestern University


University of California, Irvine
Department of Political Science
3151 Social Science Plaza
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Contemporary Political Theory, Insurgent and Popular Politics, Postcoloniality, Cultural Politics / Political Culture, Poststructuralism, Critical Theory
Academic Distinctions
Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation Scholar in Residence, Château de la Bretesche, France, 2016.

Erasmus Mundus Scholar, Utrecht University, The Netherlands, 2006-7.
Research Abstract
Kevin Olson is a political theorist who writes on issues of popular and insurgent politics, postcoloniality, the cultural and material bases of politics, poststructuralism, and critical theory. He is the author of Imagined Sovereignties: The Power of the People and Other Myths of the Modern Age (Cambridge, 2016), Reflexive Democracy: Political Equality and the Welfare State (MIT, 2006), and editor of Adding Insult to Injury: Nancy Fraser Debates Her Critics (Verso, 2008). His work has also been published in Political Theory, the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, Constellations, and other journals and books. He has served as an Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation Scholar in Residence at the Château de la Bretesche, France, and an Erasmus Mundus Scholar at Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

Olson's current research focuses on the cultural and normative bases of popular politics. It examines the complex ways that ideas such as "the power of the people," "the public sphere," and "speaking truth to power" inhabit our collective imagination. It traces these political imaginaries through a variety of written texts, images, and political practices. This work is largely genealogical, drawing on rich archives of treatises, pamphlets, broadsheets, correspondence, court records, illustrations, caricatures, and photographs from the postcolonial world and Europe. It maintains dialogue with insights of Michel Foucault, Gayatri Spivak, Ernesto Laclau, Benedict Anderson, Pierre Bourdieu, Cornelius Castoriadis, and others, and ranges over themes of collective imagination, constituent power, postcoloniality, collective identity, performativity, the construction of public spheres, and the conceptual architecture of popular sovereignty.

Adding Insult to Injury: Nancy Fraser Debates Her Critics (London: Verso, 2008). Edited and introduced by Kevin Olson. Nancy Fraser, principal author, with additional contributions by Elizabeth Anderson, Judith Butler, Leonard Feldman, Rainer Forst, Joseph Heath, Nikolas Kompridis, Kevin Olson, Anne Phillips, Ingrid Robeyns, Richard Rorty, Iris Marion Young, and Christopher Zurn. Chinese translation, trans. Zhou Suiming (Shanghai: Shanghai People's Publishing, 2009). Italian translation, trans. Irene Strazzeri (Lecce, Italy: Pensa, 2012). Korean translation (Seoul: Greenbee Publishing, 2015).
Graduate Programs
Political Science

Culture and Theory

Research Center
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