Faculty Directory

Robert Nichols

Summary of Expertise

Contemporary social and political philosophy (especially Critical Theory); the history of social and political thought (especially pertaining to imperialism and colonialism in the 19th century); and the contemporary politics of settler colonialism and indigeneity in the Anglo-American world.

Biography, Education and Training

Robert Nichols is Professor of History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His work in social and political theory has been published in several books and journal articles, including Theft is Property! Dispossession and Critical Theory (2020); The Dispossessed: Karl Marx's Debates on Wood Theft and the Right of the Poor, ed. and trans., (2021); and The World of Freedom: Heidegger, Foucault, and the Politics of Historical Ontology (2014). Before joining UCSC, Professor Nichols held faculty posts at the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities) and the University of Alberta (Canada), and visiting scholar positions at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (Germany); École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris, France); Columbia University (NYC); and the University of Cambridge (UK). He is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the Fulbright, Humboldt, Killiam, McKnight and Trudeau Foundations, as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.



Selected Publications


1)   Theft is Property! Dispossession and Critical Theory (Durham: Duke UP, 2020).

·      Spanish Translation (Bibliotopia, 2023)


2)    The Dispossessed, by Daniel Bensaïd, translated, edited, and with an introduction by Robert Nichols. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2021). Translation of Les dépossédés: Karl Marx, les voleurs de bois et le droit des pauvres (Paris: La Fabrique).


3)   The World of Freedom: Heidegger, Foucault and the politics of historical ontology (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014).


4)    Freedom and Democracy in an Imperial Context: Dialogues with James Tully. Co-edited with Jakeet Singh (NY & London: Routledge, 2014).


Articles and Chapters:

1)        ‘Political Ontology and the Dialectics of Democracy,’ Cultural Critique, No. 115 (Spring 2022): 93-110.


2)         ‘Context, Violence and Methodological Drift in the Study of Empire.’ Contemporary Political Theory, Vol. 18, No. 2 (2020).


3)         ‘Indigenous Struggles against Epistemic Violence.’ In Leigh Jenco, Megan Thomas, Murad Idris, eds., Oxford Handbook of Comparative Political Theory (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2019).


4)         ‘Indigenous Peoples, Settler Colonialism, and Global Justice.’ In Duncan Bell, ed., Race, Empire, and Global Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2019).


5)        ‘Theft is Property! The Recursive Logic of Dispossession.’ Political Theory, Vol. 46.1 (2018): 3-28.

Slovak translation: “Krádež je vlastníctvo! Rekurzívna logika vyvlastnenia” Kapital (June 2022).


6)         ‘Disaggregating Primitive Accumulation.’ Radical Philosophy, 194 (Nov/Dec 2015).

Reprinted in Ducilla Cornell and Jane Gordon eds., Creolizing Rosa Luxemburg (NY: Rowman & Littlefield, 2021)


7)         ‘The Colonialism of Incarceration.’ Radical Philosophy Review, 17.2 (2014)

Reprinted in A.Swiffen, ed., Punishment and the Limits of the Law: Cruel and Unusual (NY: Routledge UP, 2017); Reprinted in R.Dietrich and K.Knopf, eds., Biopolitics, Geopolitics, Life: Settler Colonialisms and Indigenous Presences (Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2023).


8)        ‘Contract & Usurpation: Enfranchisement and Racial Governance in Settler Colonial Contexts,’ in A.Simpson and A.Smith (eds.), Theorizing Native Studies (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014).


9)         ‘Indigeneity and the Settler Contract Today,’ Philosophy & Social Criticism, Vol. 39, Issue 2 (Feb. 2013): 161-182.