Photo of Libby Anker

Elisabeth Anker

Associate Professor of American Studies and Political Science
Faculty: Associate
203 B
Address: 2108 G Street
Phone: 202-994-7489

Areas of Expertise

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.

Current Research

Professor Anker's book Orgies of Feeling: Melodrama and the Poitics 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.

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;
The Weekly Wonk

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

Professor Anker Co-Chairs The Foundations of Political Theory Section of APSA for 2015-2016, and an Associate Editor for the journal Contemporary Political Theory

Full CV


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: 

“The Cinematic Dream Life of American Politics” Political Theory, forthcoming.

 “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:

“The Communist Manifesto in an Era of Late-Capital: Melodrama and Melancholia” 
The Cambridge Companion to the Comminist 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, forthcoming)

“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)

 Popular Scholarship and Interviews:

"New Books In Political Science Podcast: Orgies of Feeling"
New Books Network, November 2015

"Orgies of Feeling: Melodrama and the Politics of Freedom"
StatusHour Radio Show, May 27, 2015

“Elisabeth Anker: Orgies of Feeling”
Process: A Blog for American History from the Journal of American History, March 12, 2015

“New Texts Out Now: Elisabeth Anker’s Orgies of Feeling”
Jadaliyya,  February 11, 2015

“The Danger in Political Melodrama”
New America Foundation: The Weekly Wonk Magazine, October 9, 2014.

"Lights, Camera Action: The Politics of Melodrama"
Columbian College of Arts and Sciences at GWU Magazine, September 2014

Media Appearances: 

 "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

Books by Libby Anker

Orgies of Feeling

Orgies of Feeling: Melodrama and the Politics of Freedom