Faculty Directory

Aishwary Kumar
  • Title
    • Visiting Professor
  • Division Humanities Division
  • Department
    • History of Consciousness Department
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Website
  • Office Location
    • Humanities Building 1, 435
    • Department of History of Consciousness
    • Humanities Building 1, University of California-Santa Cruz
    • 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95064
  • Office Hours Fall 2019: By Appointment
  • Mail Stop History Of Consciousness
  • Mailing Address
    • Department of History of Consciousness, Humanities Building 1, 1156 High Street
    • Santa Cruz CA 95064
  • Courses HISC 109 | Liberalism and Violence, HISC 70 | Gandhi and Us, HISC 205 | Global Political Thought, HISC 135 | What is Freedom?

Summary of Expertise

Moral and Political Philosophy

History of Political Theory

Global Political Thought

Democracy at War

Liberalism and Government


Sovereignty, Law, and Forms of Violence

Secularism and the Theologico-Political

Human Freedom and the Nonhuman Condition


Research Interests

Kumar's writings have focused on the spectrum of relationships between freedom, justice, and notions of "force" in anticolonial political thought; lineages of popular sovereignty in the Global South; and global entanglements of self-determination and inequality in the age of empire and its aftermath. He has also written on sacrifice as a political question; philosophy of action in a range of revolutionary, anti-caste, and anti-imperial traditions; the structure of the modern political majority and the postcolonial struggle with the minority as moral form; and the limits of nationalist constructions of the human.

Kumar is currently working on two related studies in global political thought, concerned centrally with the intersections between philosophy, theology, and government, and the moral psychology of democratic judgment and its degeneration. The first, titled The Sovereign Void: Ambedkar’s Critique of Violence, examines arguments on freedom and the place of war in Southern and Atlantic legal and political theory, and their relation to notions of “force” across epistemological, theological, and secular traditionsThe book places Ambedkar in a global constellation of thinkers concerned with justice, revolution, and cruelty across the colonial and color line. Marx, Arendt, Fanon, Du Bois, and Shklar become crucial, discordant figures in this nineteenth and twentieht century antiimperial re-constellation. 

The second, titled The Gravity of Truth: Disenchantment, Disappointment, Democracy examines the long genealogy of constitutional, theological, and juridical concerns about truth and perjury in politics. At its center lies the relationship between conceptions of political faith, legitimacy, and trust, on the one hand, and the betrayals and mysteries of modern government (arcana imperii), on the other. The book uses the Obama Presidency as a beginning in order to undertake an archeology of "disappointment" as a moral and political category.



Biography, Education and Training

Aishwary Kumar (PhD. Trinity College, University of Cambridge) is an intellectual historian and political theorist specializing in South Asian, European, and American political thought. His work engages with questions and limits in moral and political philosophy; war, freedom, and liberalism; constitutional theory and political justice; political religion and the modern government; and the moral psychology of democratic resistance and violence. Kumar’s first book, Radical Equality: Ambedkar, Gandhi, and the Risk of Democracy (Stanford, 2015; New Delhi 2019) examines the tension between religious conceptions of freedom and agonistic phenomenologies of citizenship in anticolonial traditions, as they have transformed liberal and theological articulations of "authority" over the last two centuries. Radical Equality was listed by The Indian Express among the fifteen most important works on politics, morality, and law to be published anywhere that year. Kumar's essays have appeared, among other places, in Modern Intellectual History, Contemporary South Asia, Social History, and Public Culture. He has also featured on the radio shows Entitled Opinions and Philosophy Talk




Selected Publications


Radical Equality: Ambedkar, Gandhi and the Risk of Democracy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015), Indian Edition (New Delhi: Navayana, 2019).


 “Can the Sovereign Gift? Gandhi’s Maryada and the Moral Law,” Contemporary South Asia 25, 4 (2017), 415-22.

Satyagraha and the Place of the Animal: Gandhi’s Distinctions,” Social History 9, 3 (2014), 359-81.

 “The Ellipsis of Touch: Gandhi’s Unequals,” Public Culture 23, 2 (2011), 449-69.

“Ambedkar’s Inheritances,” Modern Intellectual History 7, 2 (2010), 391-415.

 Book Chapters

“War without End: Ambedkar, Time, and Stasis” [forthcoming] in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Political Theory, ed. Murad Idris, Leigh Jenco, and Megan Thomas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019).

 “In the Void of Faith: Sunnyata, Sovereignty, Minority” in Tolerance, Secularization, and Democratic Politics in South Asia, ed. Humeira Iqtidar and Tanika Sarkar (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).

"Imagination and the Returns of Political Freedom,' Foreword to Jyotirmaya Sharma, The Ocean of Mirth: Reading Hasyarnava-Prahasanam of Jagadesvara BhattacharyaA Political Satire of All Times (London and New Delhi: Routledge, 2019).

“Inequality and Exactitude,” Foreword to Soumyabrata Choudhury, Ambedkar and Other Immortals: Toward an “Untouchable Research Program (New Delhi: Navayana, 2018).


“Force and Adoration: Ambedkar’s Maitri,” Seminar, Annual Issue (January 2013), 68-73.

“Democracy, Populism, and Polytheism: Islam in India,” The Caravan, December 2018.

“Hinduism’s Struggle to be Modern,” The Hindu (11 February, 2013).

“The Lies of Manu: On the Ahimsa to Come,” Outlook (20 August 2012).


Selected Recordings

"Ambedkar, Arendt, Freedom" | Entitled Opinions


"Gandhi and the Ordariness of Violence" | Entitled Opinions


"What is Intellectual History and Why does it matter?" | Stanford Politics


"Radical Democracy: Between Constitution and Insurrection" | Philosophy Talk 


"Ambedkar, Gandhi and the Moral Life" Algebra Arts & Ideas Club


"Free Radical: On India Turning Against Itself" | Algebra Arts & Ideas Club


"Critical Mass: Democracy and Its Reactions" | Algebra Arts & Ideas Club




"Ambedkar, Revolutionary and Constitutionalist" | The Caravan


Teaching Interests

Democracy and Political Theory

Anticolonial Political Thought

Political Justice and the Global South


War and the Political

Empire and Resistance


Contemporary History