Genealogy as Method: Historicising Political Subjectivities and the Political Unconscious (Adele Webb)

Genealogy as Method: Historicising Political Subjectivities and the Political Unconscious (Adele Webb)

Within the political science scholarship on democracy, there is a modest but growing concern about the need to make more complex our understandings of citizens' political engagement, and the meaning and purposes that steer a particular political community. This talk explores the opportunities and challenges of using genealogy as a grounded political methodology for studying democratic attitudes - particularly the complexity of post-colonial political subjectivities, the emotional attachments people may have to formal authority, and the way these attachments effect their participation in the public sphere. Genealogy is more than critical history: the principle work of a genealogy is to explicate the historical processes that 'make' subjects, and to underscore the contingent quality of meanings, logics and historical trajectories. The talk draws on my recent book, Chasing Freedom: The Philippines' Long Journey to Democratic Ambivalence (2022), in which I used genealogy as an analytical method for making visible what liberal political theory considers an irrational political disposition – a sustained saying of 'yes' and 'no' to democracy. The book investigates the historical developments of this deep-seated political position, including its origins in colonial practices of subjugation, and begins to theorise the political consequences of an ambivalence about democracy that is globally on the rise.

Adele Webb joined the University of Canberra's Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance in 2023 as Research Fellow in Democracy and Citizen Engagement. She is an early career political sociologist researching how citizens think about democracy, when and why they hold ambivalent attitudes to democracy, and how subjectivities and the political unconscious affect their engagement with democratic processes. She is also interested in Southeast Asian Politics, Post-Colonial Theory and Critical Interpretive methods. After completing her PhD at the University of Sydney (2019), Adele has held positions at Heidelberg University, Griffith University and Queensland University of Technology. Her first monograph, Chasing Freedom: The Philippines’ Long Journey to Democratic Ambivalence, was published by Liverpool University Press and Ateneo de Manila University Press in 2022.

You can join this talk via zoom by following this link:

To get on the IMC mailing list go to:
For more information on the talks or the IMC, write to the convenors: April Biccum and Nick Cheesman


Date & time

Fri 24 Mar 2023, 12–1pm



Adele Webb


Nick Cheesman


Updated:  2 March 2023/Responsible Officer:  RSSS Director/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications