Recent Submissions

  • Sonia Sotomayor’s Legal Phenomenology, Racial Policing, and the Limits of Law

    McMahon, John (University of Chicago Press, 2021-10-01)
    Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent in the Fourth Amendment case Utah v. Strieff (2016) received a great deal of media attention, particularly for its citations to prominent Black political thinkers and its evocations of Black Lives Matter. This article interprets Justice Sotomayor’s dissent as constructing an emergent legal theory that incorporates Black Lives Matter and the experiences of people of color subject to being stopped and searched into the core of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. In contrast to Clarence Thomas’s abstracted majority opinion, I argue Sotomayor contests the meaning of law’s relations to subjects, bringing the feeling, moving, restrained, invaded, prodded, shaped, habitual, racialized subject of the police stop into Supreme Court legal reasoning. In tension with Sotomayor’s phenomenological alternative are structural and institutional constraints on the liberatory possibilities for any Supreme Court dissent, particularly one focused on racial injustice. The article argues for recognizing both the generativity of the emergent legal phenomenology and the constraints on its politics in order to grapple with the potential for legal critique to surface from what Sotomayor calls law’s “cold abstractions.”
  • Magicians of the Twenty-first Century: Enchantment, Domination, and the Politics of Work in Silicon Valley

    Crandall, Emily K.; Brown, Rachel H.; McMahon, John (Project Muse, 2021)
    What is the political theorist to make of self-characterizations of Silicon Valley as the beacon of civilization-saving innovation? Through an analysis of "tech bro" masculinity and the closely related discourses of tech icons Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, we argue that undergirding Silicon Valley's technological utopia is an exploitative work ethic revamped for the industry's innovative ethos. On the one hand, Silicon Valley hypothetically offers a creative response to what Max Weber describes as the disenchantment of the modern world. Simultaneously, it depoliticizes the actual work necessary for these dreams to be realized, mystifying its modes of domination.
  • "Alexa, Alert Me When the Revolution Comes": Gender, Affect, and Labor in the Age of Home-Based Artificial Intelligence

    Schiller, Amy; McMahon, John (2019)
    The fantasy of automation is one of liberation from alienating tasks. Today, domestic artificial intelligence (AI) enacts this dream of frictionlessly offloading monotony. This article deploys theories of Marxist feminism, affective labor to interrogate domestic AI’s unprecedented promise of absorbing forms of labor we hardly acknowledged that we did. While these devices make the reproductive labor of the household legible as labor, we interrogate their quasi-emancipatory promise. We argue that devices such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home elide and reproduce the gendered and racialized dimensions of domestic labor, streamline this labor for capture by capital, and heighten the very affective dynamics they promise to ameliorate. Only critical political theories of work can illuminate the unfulfilled transformations and ongoing dominations of gender, race, and affect that saturate labor with domestic AI – expressed, we contend, by re-articulating the framework of the “social factory” to that of the “social server.”
  • Producing Political Knowledge: Students as Podcasters in the Political Science Classroom

    McMahon, John (Journal of Political Science Education, 2019)
    Given the increasing prevalence of podcast listening, especially among young adults with college education, it is important to consider how student-produced podcasts can impact the student experience in the classroom, contribute to a more participatory course, and help achieve learning objectives. To engage these issues, this article reflects on the podcast assignment completed by five courses of students, three introductory American Politics classes and two Political Ideologies classes. This article seeks to examine how podcasts can work as a tool for students to research, analyze, synthesize, and present political information in a specific pedagogical and rhetorical setting; in the course of doing so, students become actively engaged with the audio public political sphere. I focus on assignment design, learning objectives, and my own pedagogical reflections in order to reach some tentative ideas about the pedagogical potential of podcasts in the political science classroom.
  • Rosa Luxemburg and the Primitive Accumulation of Whiteness

    McMahon, John; Issar, Siddhant; Brown, Rachel H. (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2021)
    One of Rosa Luxemburg’s signal contributions to the critique of capitalism is her theorization of primitive accumulation as an ongoing imperial practice that is endemic to capitalism, rather than a historical phase belonging to capital’s pre-history. This dimension of her thought marks a turning point for theorizing capital’s violence. Indeed, a variety of contemporary thinkers have since built upon Luxemburg’s insights to interrogate the continuity of primitive accumulation in the present. Our paper extends Luxemburg’s distinctive intervention beyond its current application by interweaving her work on primitive accumulation with analyses of racial capitalism, the logic of global coloniality, and race-making in medieval Europe. We begin by examining how racial hierarchy and the historical production of whiteness complicate, supplement, and are bound up with Luxemburg’s prescient analysis of primitive accumulation. We then analyze several (re)constitutions of whiteness to conceptualize how they mediate and enable racial capitalism, from the European Middle Ages to our contemporary moment of neoliberal imperialism. Ultimately, we claim that creolizing Luxemburg enables the theorization of the primitive accumulation of whiteness, a concept that elucidates a dynamic by which racial capitalism operates. This concept highlights how processes of racialization, particularly the consolidation of whiteness as a racial-civilizational category, are necessary to ongoing imperial accumulations of capital; situates Luxemburg as a theorist of racial capitalism; and ensures that accounts of early modalities of whiteness in medieval race-making and later in neoliberal modes of imperialism do not understand whiteness or race as phenomena separate from capital.
  • "And Still We Rise": Open Pedagogy and Black History at a Rural Comprehensive State College

    Beatty, Joshua F.; Hartnett, Timothy C.; Kimok, Debra; McMahon, John (2020)
    Chapter begins: In Spring 2019, students at The State University of New York College at Plattsburgh (SUNY Plattsburgh) researched, designed, and built And Still We Rise: Celebrating Plattsburgh’s (Re)Discovery of Iconic Black Visitors (ASWR), an exhibit in the Feinberg Library on prominent Black political and cultural figures who had visited the college since the 1960s. The thirteen students in African-American Political Thought (Political Science 371), taught by Dr. John McMahon, researched in the college’s archives and secondary sources to curate photos, text and multimedia for physical and virtual exhibits....