Dr Jessica Whyte

Dr Jessica Whyte with trees in the background.

Jessica Whyte is Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Social Analysis at the University of Western Sydney, Australia and an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow. Her work integrates European philosophy, human rights theory and twentieth century international history in order to illuminate transformations in the politics of life since WWII. Her work has been published in a range of fora including Law and Critique; Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism and DevelopmentTheory and Event; and Contemporary Political Theory. Her first monograph, Catastrophe and redemption: the political thought of Giorgio Agamben, was published by SUNY in 2013. Her forthcoming book, Governing homo economicus: human rights and the rise of neoliberalism will be published by Verso in 2018. 

She is currently working on a three-year Australian Research Council-funded project, Inventing Collateral Damage: The Changing Moral Economy of War. This project aims to provide a novel philosophical account of the invention of the discourse of collateral damage. It seeks to understand the historical and institutional processes that have produced a moral distinction between deliberate harm inflicted on non-combatants, and the non-intentional harm that is seen as an inevitable side effect of modern warfare. Drawing on archival material and military manuals, and combining insights from the history of human rights and contemporary European political philosophy, the project aims to produce a sophisticated philosophical framework for understanding the social and political implications of conceiving civilian deaths as 'collateral damage'. Today, the term 'collateral damage' has become part of our contemporary lexicon, and its semantic field has extended beyond the military context to refer to diverse forms of unintended negative consequences. Through an examination of the ways in which humanitarians, militaries and international lawyers have shaped a normative framework that allows certain deaths to be considered 'collateral damage', this research will throw new light on the ways in which Western societies determine that some lives can be sacrificed in the interests of the public good.


PhD, 2010, Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, Monash University

Social Science (Hons.), 2003, RMIT University

Bachelor of Arts (Journalism), 2002, RMIT University

Honours and Awards

2010: Monash University Mollie Holman Doctoral Medal

2010: School of English, Communications and Performance Studies Graduate Research Achievement Prize for the best publication in the School. (Awarded for the article 'Particular rights and absolute wrongs: Giorgio Agamben on life and politics', published in Law and Critique.)

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Selected Publications


Habjan, J & Whyte, J (ed.) 2014, (Mis)readings of Marx in continental philosophy (opens in a new window), Palgrave Macmillan.

Whyte, J 2013, Catastrophe and redemption: the political thought of Giorgio Agamben (opens in a new window), SUNY, New York.

Murray, A & Whyte, J 2011, The Agamben dictionary, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.

Book Chapters

Whyte, J 2017, 'Giorgio Agamben's Marx', in A Kotsko & C Salzani (eds), Agamben as reader: a guide to the sources, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.

Whyte, J 2017, 'Foucault's "distrust of legalism": on human rights and the revolution in Iran', in T Zartaloudis ﴾ed.﴿, Law and Philosophy: Critical Intersections, Rowman and Littlefield.

Whyte, J (forthcoming under contract, accepted December 2014) 2015, '"Always on top": sovereignty, the "responsibility to protect" and the persistence of colonialism', in D Kim & J Singh (eds), Postcolonial world, Routledge.

Whyte, J 2014, '"Man produces universally": Agamben and Marx on production and praxis', in J Habjan & J Whyte (eds), (Mis)readings of Marx in continental philosophy, Palgrave Macmillan, pp.178-94.

Habjan, J & Whyte, J 2014, 'Introduction: (Mis)readings of Marx', in J Habjan & J Whyte (eds), (Mis)readings of Marx in continental philosophy, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1-18.

Whyte, J 2014, 'Humanising militarism: Amnesty International and the tactical polyvalence of human rights discourses', in A Yeatman & P Birmingham (eds), The aporia of rights: explorations of citizenship in the era of human rights, Bloomsbury, pp. 183-204.

Whyte, J 2013, '"The king reigns but he doesn't govern": thinking sovereignty and government with Agamben, Foucault and Rousseau', in T Frost (ed.), Giorgio Agamben: legal, political and philosophical potentialities (opens in a new window), Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 143-62.

Whyte, J 2012, '"Is revolution desirable?" Michel Foucault on revolution, neoliberalism and rights', in B Golder (ed.), Michel Foucault: law, power, rights, Routledge, London, pp. 207-28.

Whyte, J 2012, '"The work of men is not durable": Giorgio Agamben, the Haitian revolution and the rights of man', in S Bignall & M Svirsky (eds), Agamben and colonialism, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp. 239-60.

Whyte, J 2012, 'Human rights: confronting governments?: Michel Foucault and the right to intervene', in M Stone, I Wall & C Douzinas (eds), New critical legal thinking, Routledge, London, pp. 11-31.

Murray, A & Whyte, J 2011, 'Introduction: the lexicographer and the sovereign', in A Murray & J Whyte (eds), The Agamben dictionary, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp. 1-14.

Whyte, J 2008, '"Starting from this uncertain terrain"', in M Sharpe, M Noonan & J Freddi (eds), Trauma, history, philosophy, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle, pp. 247-66.

Whyte, J 2008, '"Its silent working was a delusion"', in J Clemens, N Heron & J Murray (eds), Law, life, language: the work of Giorgio Agamben, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp. 66-81.

Whyte, J 2006, 'Critiquing the violence of Guantanamo', in A Milner, Ryan, M. and Savage, R. (eds), Imagining the Future: Utopia and Dystopia, Arena Publications, Melbourne, pp. 123-35.

Whyte, J 2003, '"We are human beings": the Woomera breakout', in K Ainger & G Chesters (eds), We are everywhere, the irresistible rise of global anticapitalism, Verso, London, pp. 430-36.

Refereed Journal Articles

Whyte, J 2017, 'Human rights and the collateral damage of neoliberalism on Talal Asad's, "What do human rights do?' (opens in a new window), Theory and Event, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 137-151. 

Whyte, J 2017, ‘Starve and immolate: the politics of human weapons, Political Theory, vol. 45, no. 5, pp. 720–723.

Whyte, J 2017, ‘The invisible hand of Friedrich Hayek: submission and spontaneous order, Political Theory, doi:10.1177/0090591717737064.

Whyte J 2016, ‘The republic of the living: Biopolitics and the critique of civil society’, Contemporary Political Theory, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 42-45.

Whyte J 2016, ‘Legitimacy and the shadows of universalism: a response to Meine’s ‘Debating legitimacy transnationally’, Global Discourse, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 347-351. 

Whyte, J 2014, 'The fortunes of natural man: Robinson Crusoe, political economy and the universal declaration of human rights', Humanity: an International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism and Development, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 301-321.

Palmer, D & Whyte, J 2010, "'No credible photographic interest': photography and surveillance in a time of terror", Philosophy of Photography, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 177-195.

Whyte, J 2010, '"A new use of the self": Giorgio Agamben on the coming community', Theory and Event, vol. 13, no. 1.

Bailey, R., McLoughlin, D. and Whyte, J. 2010, '"Editors" introduction: form of life: Giorgio Agamben, ontology and politics' (opens in a new window), Theory and Event, vol. 13, no. 1.

Whyte, J 2009, 'Criminalising "camera fiends": photography restrictions in the age of digital reproduction', Australian Feminist Law Journal, vol. 31, no.1, pp. 99-120.

Sentas, V & Whyte, J 2009, 'Law, crisis, revolution: an introduction', Australian Feminist Law Journal, vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 3-14.

Whyte, J 2009, '"I would prefer not to": Giorgio Agamben, Bartleby and the potentiality of the law', Law and Critique vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 309-324.

Whyte, J 2009, 'Particular rights and absolute wrongs: Giorgio Agamben on life and politics', Law and Critique, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 147-161.

Whyte, J 2009, 'Contesting reality after the neo-cons', Cosmopolitan Civil Societies, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 199-206.

Fernandez, C, Gill, M, Szeman, I & Whyte, J 2006, 'Erasing the line; or the politics of the border' (opens in a new window), Ephemera: Theory and Politics in Organisation, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 466-483.

Whyte, J 2006, 'Critiquing the violence of Guantanamo', Arena Journal, no. 25/26, pp. 123-135.

Whyte, J. 2006, "Modello Guantanamo. La monopolizzazione del futuro", in, Conflitti Globali Vol 4.

Edited Collections

Bailey, R, McLoughlin, D & Whyte, J 2010, 'Form of life: Giorgio Agamben; ontology; politics', Theory and Event, vol. 13, no. 1.

Sentas, V & Whyte, J 2009, 'Law, crisis, revolution', Australian Feminist Law Journal, no. 31, pp. 3-14.

Non-refereed Articles

Whyte, J with Marsh, A, Davison, M & Miles, M 2012, 'A right of privacy and photography in public' (opens in a new window), Australian Intellectual Property Law Bulletin.

Whyte, J 2012, '"Intervene I said" human rights and social justice' (opens in a new window), Overland, no. 207, pp. 24-32.

Whyte, J 2012, 'On the politics of suffering' (opens in a new window), Arena Magazine, no. 118, pp. 37-39.

Whyte, J 2012, 'Awakening the giant', Adbusters, no. 99.

Whyte, J '"The long night of the left is drawing to a close": philosophy and the idea of communism', Overland, no. 204, pp. 12-20.

Whyte, J with Miles, M 2011, 'Perverting photography' (opens in a new window), Arena Magazine, no. 109, pp. 41-45.

Whyte, J with Marsh, A 2010, 'Photography as crime: mapping anxiety in the public sphere' (opens in a new window), Art Monthly, no. 235, pp. 17-20.

Whyte, J 2007, 'Contesting realities' (opens in a new window), Overland, no. 188, pp. 26-29.

Whyte, J 2007, 'This is not Australia' (opens in a new window), Natural Selections, no. 6, p. 5.

Whyte, J 2006, 'Agents of transformation', Overland, no. 184, pp. 90-91.

Whyte, J 2004, 'Our greatest shame', Overland, no. 177, 2004.

Whyte, J with Marston, G 2004, 'Temporary protection – permanent uncertainty' (opens in a new window), Australian Policy Online.

Whyte, J 2002, 'Normalising razor wire' (opens in a new window), Arena Magazine, no. 61, pp. 26-27.

Whyte, J 2002, 'Economic migrants', Desert Storm Woomera Publication / Interactivist Info Exchange.

Whyte, J 2002, 'Restore the commons! Break the borders', Green Pepper Borders Edition, Amsterdam.

Whyte, J 2002, 'Woomera: Australia's best kept secret' (opens in a new window), Chain Reaction, no. 87, p. 32.

Whyte, J 2002, 'Finding humanity in Woomera?', Z NET.

Whyte, J 2001, 'Not in our name: refugee detention puts the lie to our egalitarian myth', Arena Magazine, no. 52.


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