Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Alyson M. Cole

Subject Categories

Philosophy | Political Science


This dissertation advances two interrelated claims. First, I examine the concept of responsibility and show how it operates as a rhetorical form that mediates a large segment of political life. Framing responsibility as a distinctly political problem, I argue that it functions to produce, discipline and govern subjects as well as legislate forms of identity, difference and community. Second, I argue that the definitional space of responsibility is not sacred, but contested. It is within this contested space that political battles regarding how we ought to understand the world and what it means to live in common with others plays out. Focusing on the ways in which responsibility is used to impose order allows me to understand how a politics of responsibility impacts discussions as far ranging as political violence, economic crisis and environmental policy.