Elisabeth Anker

Elisabeth Anker
Associate Professor of American Studies and Political Science
2108 G St. NW, Room 103
[email protected]

Areas of Expertise

Full CV

political theory; critical and cultural theory; contemporary politics; feminist theory; film and media studies


Professor Libby Anker's research and teaching interests are at the intersection of political theory, critical theory, cultural analysis, and media studies. Prof. Anker received her PhD in Political Theory from UC Berkeley, where she also received a Designated Emphasis in Film Studies. She has held research fellowships at Brown University's Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women and UC Berkeley's Charles Travers Fellowship in Ethics and Politics. Her research has also been supported by multiple faculty grants from The George Washington University. 

Professor Anker is associate editor for the journals Contemporary Political Theory and Politics and Gender. She serves on the editorial boards of American Political Science Review and Theory & Event. She was past chair of the governing council for the Association of Political Theory and past co-chair of the Foundations of Political Thought section of the APSA.

Professor Anker is a frequent media commentator on national news outlets and has appeared on CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera Arabic, Al Jazeera English, Voice of America, and other television and radio networks. 

Current Research

Professor Anker's book Orgies of Feeling: Melodrama and the Politics of Freedom (Duke, 2014) examines the role of melodrama in US politics.  Melodrama is a powerful political discourse that intensifies suffering and galvanizes national sentiment to legitimate state violence. Orgies of Feeling reframes political theories of sovereignty, freedom, and power by analyzing the work of melodrama and affect in  the War on Terror, neoliberal politics, Hollywood film, and post-Marxist critical theory. Building on Friedrich Nietzsche's notion of "orgies of feeling," in which overwhelming emotions displace commonplace experiences of powerlessness onto a dramatic story of injured freedom, melodrama animates desires for unconstrained freedom in devitalized citizens.

Orgies of Feeling was a finalist for the 2015 Romero Prize for the Best First Book in American Studies, awarded annually by the American Studies Association. It was also awarded a Choice Outstanding Academic Title in Political Theory for 2015.

Read or Listen to interviews about Orgies of Feeling here:

Process: A Blog of American History;        
StatusHour Radio;
New Books Network Podcast;        
Columbian College Magazine;

Professor Anker’s next book is titled Ugly Freedoms. The book examines contemporary visions of freedom in an era marked by non-sovereignty, global interdependence, and heightened levels of inequality.  



A.B., Brown University, 1997
Ed.M., Harvard University, 1998
Ph.D., UC Berkeley, 2007



Orgies of Feeling: Melodrama and the Politics of Freedom. (Duke University Press, 2014)

Journal Articles 

"Thwarting Neoliberal Security: Inertia, Bureaucracy, and Outmodedness in The Wire" American Literary History, forthcoming 

"The Cinematic Dream-Life of American Politics" Political Theory44:2, (May 2016): 207-218.

 “Three Emancipations: Manderlay, Slavery, and Racialized Freedom” Theory & Event, 18:2 (May 2015)

“The Liberalism of Horror” Social Research, 81:4 (Winter 2014): 795-823.

“Freedom and the Human in ‘Evolutionary’ Political Theory” Political Research Quarterly 67:2 (June 2014): 453-456.

“Feminist Theory and The Failures of Post-9/11 Freedom”Politics and Gender 8:2 (June 2012): 207-216.

“Left Melodrama”Contemporary Political Theory 11.2 (May 2012): 130–152. 

“Heroic Identifications: Or ‘You Can Love Me Too—I Am So Like The State’ ”Theory and Event 15.1 (March 2012)

“Villains, Victims and Heroes: Melodrama, Media and 9/11.” Journal of Communication. 55:1 (March 2005): 22-37.

Articles in Books

"Three Emancipations: Manderlay and Racialized Freedom" Politics, Theory and Film: Critical Encounters With Lars Von Trier, Bonnie Honig and Lori Marso, eds. (Oxford University Press, 2016)

“The Communist Manifesto in an Era of Late-Capital: Melodrama and Melancholia” The Cambridge Companion to the Communist Manifesto eds. Terrell Carver and James Farr. (Cambridge University Press, 2015). 

“The Melodramatic Style of American Politics” After The Tears: Victimhood and Subjectivity in the Melodramatic Mode) eds. Scott Loren and Joerg Mettleman. (Amsterdam University Press, 2015)

“The Limits of Neoliberalism: The Wire and Market Rationality” Everything is Connected: The Politics of HBO’s “The Wire” eds. Shirin Deylami and Jonathan Hovercraft.  (Routledge, 2014). 

“Wendy Brown” The Encyclopedia of Political Thought eds. Michael Gibbons, Diana Coole, Lisa Ellis (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.)

Review Essays

“Red Alert: Communism, Protest, and the End of Democracy” Political Theory, 43:2 (April 2015): 262-270.

 “Terror Firma: The Landscape of Terror in American Politics” Theory and Event. 14.1 (March 2011)

“American Multiculturalism After 9/11 and Out of the Blue: September 11 and the Novel.” American Literature, June 2014.

“National Love in Violent Times” Political Theory 36:5 (October 2008 ):762-769

“The Only Thing We Have To Fear. . .”Theory and Event. 8:3 (September 2005)


Media Appearances 

Interview on Election Violence, Al Arabiya (June 12, 2016)

"Breaking Taboos: Donald Trump, WMDs, and the US Media" Al Jazeera (February 21, 2016)

 "James Foley" Journalism or Propaganda"Al Jazeera,  August 30, 2014

“2016: Obama’s America” MetroTV Indonesia (November 2, 2012)

Playing the Osama bin Laden Card” Al Jazeera (September 15, 2012)

US Memorial Day: A Semantic Minefield” Al Jazeera (June 18, 2012) 

Stealing America: Vote By Vote.  Documentary Film Dir: Dorothy Fadiman. (Concentric Media, 2008. DVD)

Classes Taught


Freedom and Domination

Capitalism and Neoliberalism

Critical Theory

Debating Democracy in America

American Political Thought and the Melodramatic Imaginary 

Post-9/11 Politics and Culture


Politics and Feelings, Senior Research Seminar

Democracy and Power in a Global Era, Honors Seminar

Freedom in American Thought and Culture, Undergraduate Lecture

Citizenship, Senior Research Seminar

Politics and Film, Undergraduate Lecture