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Chris Barker

Brief Biography

Chris Barker is an assistant professor at the American University in Cairo (AUC). He teaches the history of political thought and topics in contemporary political theory. In his first book, Educating Liberty: Democracy and Aristocracy in JS Mill’s Political Thought, Barker explains the dependence of Mill’s theory of liberty upon conditions created by changes in the equality of conditions between men, women, workers, and citizens. He concludes that Mill’s version of liberty is not well described as either negative or positive; instead, it aims at developing what he calls mental independence, or thinking power. He is also the co-editor with Robert Ingram of a history of popular sovereignty, People Power: Popular Sovereignty from Machiavelli to Late Modernity. His most recent research focuses on John Stuart Mill’s participation in the British imperial project and on the corporation as the vehicle of the imperial project. Barker also has research and teaching interests in mass incarceration and theories of punishment, and in the history of subjectivity. He has published several articles, book chapters, and public-facing articles in the history of political theory (see below). Before coming to The American University in Cairo, Barker held positions at Southwestern College, Ohio University, Boston College and Harvard University. Barker is on research leave during the fall 2023 semester.

Research Interest
  • Imperialism 
  • 19th century and contemporary liberalism
  • Criminal justice/theories of punishment
  • History of subjectivity


  • People Power: Popular Sovereignty from Machiavelli to Modernity (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2022), co-edited and co-introduced with Robert Ingram (Ohio University). Chapters by Catherine Zuckert, Danielle Charette, Nathan Pinkoski, Will Selinger, James Vaughn, Anna Vincenzi, Joshua Lynn, Heather Pangle Wilford, Greg Conti, Susan Shell and Paul Wilford, Robert G. Ingram, and Mark Blitz.
  • Educating Liberty: Democratic Freedom and Aristocracy in JS Mill’s Political Thought (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2018). Reviewed in Perspectives on Politics; Utilitas; Victorian Studies; Review of Politics; Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy; Revue d’études Benthamiennes; Newsletter of the British Association for Victorian Studies.

Selected Articles

  • The American Action Film and the Pitkin-Arendt Tyranny of 'The Social,' Thesis Eleven 176, 1: 49-65.
  • Foucault’s Anarchaeology of Christian Confession: Power, Obedience, Government, Philosophy and Social Criticism0,0 (2023): 1-24.
  • On Legitimizing and Legalizing Wars in the Transforming Public Sphere : Social Contract Theory’s Confusion about War Declarations,” Law, Culture, and the Humanities 0,0 (2023): 1-20.
  • The Troubled Hedonist and Social Justice: Mill and the Epicureans on the Ataraxic Life, Utilitas Journal (Forthcoming)
  • How to Tell the Political Truth: Foucault on Protest Speech and Parrhesiastic SpeechContemporary Political Theory 18, 3 (2019): 357-378
  • Dostoevsky and Education through PunishmentReview of Politics 80, 3 (2018): 463-486
  • Mass and Elite Politics in Mill’s Considerations on Representative Government, History of European Ideas, 41, 8 (2015): 1143-1163
  • Demagoguery and Mental Independence in James Fenimore Cooper’s Political WritingsAmerican Political Thought, 4, 4 (2015): 588-611
  • JS Mill on 19th Century Marriage and the Common LawLaw, Culture and the Humanities (2015): 1-21
  • Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon and the Fear of Death in War, War, Literature, & the Arts (2015): 1-19
  • Mechanical Reproduction in the Age of High ArtContemporary Aesthetics 12 (2014)
  • Freedom in Shakespeare’s English History PlaysInterpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy, 40, 2 (2013): 221-251

Selected Chapters

  • Political Theory and its Problems with Populism, in Mapping Populism: The Student’s Handbook for Understanding and Studying Populism, ed. Majia Nadesan and Amit Ron (New York: Routledge, 2020), 227-235.
  • Unfree, Unequal, Unempirical: Press Freedom, British India and Mill's Theory of the Public, Freedom of Speech, 1550-1850, ed. Alex Barber and Jason Peacey (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020), 235-256.
  • Beaumont and Tocqueville on the US Penitentiary System,  Anthem Companion to Tocqueville, ed. Daniel Gordon (2019), 187-205.
  • The Certainty of Punishment and the Proportionality of Incarceration, Rethinking Incarceration in an Era of Mass Incarceration, ed. Chris Surprenant (New York: Routledge, 2017), 69-88.

Selected Popular Writing

  • University of Toronto (BA)
  • Claremont Graduate University (MA, PhD)