Alicia Steinmetz is a political theorist and historian of political thought. Her research is devoted to analyzing the epistemological assumptions, emotional language, and moral psychology behind political concepts and values, which has led her to a variety of past and current projects on issues including imagination, translation, and visibility and invisibility in political life. Her work in the history of political thought is rooted mainly in the early modern era and examines the influence and transformations of classical political philosophy during that period. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale University, and was previously a Fulbright Fellow in Nitra, Slovakia and a Fox Fellow at the University of Cambridge, Sidney Sussex College.
Her current book project examines the forgotten role of theories of imagination in constructing early modern notions of social and political agency. Despite the imagination’s central role in politics, it rarely features as a independent topic of inquiry in political theory, and is often cast as a “passive” faculty of the mind against the more active role played by reason and the passions. To remedy this traditional inattention, the book draws on a range of writings, both well-known and obscure, from four key political thinkers of the early modern period - Michel de Montaigne, Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant - in order to highlight the crucial function the imagination played in the formation of the philosophical infrastructure linking modern notions of mind, nature, humanity, and freedom.
Outside of the book, Alicia has two additional ongoing research projects. One is committed to examining different perspectives on translation as an important activity within political theorizing and politics more generally, and another is focused on analyzing the role of “truthfulness” in Isaiah Berlin’s approach to liberalism and value pluralism. She has published in journals Political Theory and Politics and Religion and in edited volumes The Cambridge Companion to Isaiah Berlin and The Oxford Handbook of Deliberative Democracy.
She has taught courses on ancient and early modern political philosophy, the moral and ethical foundations of notions of political legitimacy, and the political economy of gender. At Stanford, she plans to offer one course on ancient Greek political thought, particularly focusing on the work of Thucydides, Plato, and Aristotle, and another surveying attempts to conceptualize “society” as a unique form of social organization from the nineteenth century to the present.