“We have become less and less aware of the changed environment in which disposing of lives takes place and the forms that disposability takes, so that we no longer recognise what is staring us in the face”. Max Silverman

Launched in January 2014, the histories of violence “Disposable Life” project interrogates the meaning of mass violence and human destruction in the 21st Century. Inviting critical reflections from renowned public intellectuals, artists and writers, this three year project will feature a series of monthly filmed reflections from our illustrious list of participants (see contributors below); a subsequent feature film for public broadcast; accompanying book of complementary essays and associated publications/media articles; along with a series of global events that will bring together the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences to offer innovative and publicly engaging forums to inform debate and rethink the ideals of global citizenship.

We are honoured that the eighth contribution to our reflections series is provided by Professor Max Silverman who is renowned for his work on trauma, memory, race and violence. For Silverman, ‘disposable lives’ does not simply refer to the killing of people. It is about the stripping away of everything that constitutes a person’s humanity. Crucially, he argues, this tendency is not confined to totalitarian regimes. It is carried out in the name of progress, democracy, freedom, choice, efficiency and many other admirable terms. Indeed, what is truly terrifying is the fact that the forms of disposability have changed but our awareness has not kept pace, so we are more and more cut off from the reality of disposable lives.

*Official Imagery for the Disposable Life Project: Gottfried Helnwein, “I Walk Alone”. All copyright and reproduction rights reserved by artist. For details on the artist works visit the official site by clicking here

The Project


“Mass violence is poorly understood if it simply refers to casualties on battlefields or continues to be framed through conventional notions of warfare. We need to interrogate the multiple ways in which entire populations are rendered disposable on a daily basis if we are to take seriously the meaning of global citizenship in the 21st Century”. More details of the project are available here

Full Lectures


So far we have released monthly reflections from Cynthia Enloe, Simon Critchley, Zygmunt Bauman, & Henry A. Giroux. Coming soon will be reflections from Gayatri Spivak, Gustavo Esteva, Jean Franco, Slavoj Zizek, Etienne Balibar, Richard Sennett, Saskia Sassen and David Theo Goldberg to name a few. All the released productions can be viewed in full here

Contributor Biographies

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Confirmed participants for the film series will further include amongst others, Gil Anidjar, Bracha Ettinger, Coco Fusco, Nancy Fraser, Carol Gluck, Lewis Gordon, Jane Gordon, Gregg Lambert, Rozena Maart, Achille Mbembe, Adrian Parr, Anyana Roy, Max Silverman & Cary Wolfe. Full biographies of all the projects contributors are available here

Our Partners

Our project is made possible by the shared contributions of our committed partners which includes: The Global Insecurities Centre, University of Bristol; The Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University, New York; The Perpetual Peace Project; The Central New York Humanities Corridor; TAFT Research Centre, University of Cincinnati; McMaster Centre for Scholarship in Public Interest, Ontario; 3CT Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory, Rice University; University California Humanities Research Institute; & The Centre for Critical Research on Race & Identity, University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa.

Join The Debate Disposable Futures 

As part of the Disposable Life project, the Histories of Violence project is proud to have partnered with TruthOut to create a forum for broader public discussion on the theme of “disposable futures.” We are inviting contributions, details can be found here


Articles from the project have already featured in Al Jazeera, The Independent (UK), Social Europe, TruthOut & World Economic Review to name a few. These can be viewed here. Further publications will include a number of monographs, an edited book and edited special journal editions. Details of each of these publications will available upon release.

Recommended Readings 

Cruel Modernity
Whilst the framing of the debate on mass violence in terms of disposability offers the potential to develop a new critical angle of vision, opening up the possibility for trans-disciplinary mediation and engagement, it must be acknowledged that a number of pioneering works already produced by our contributors have inspired and continue to inform this project. Although by no means extensive, we have listed here some of the most relevant and notable for further reading and to assist in the development of teaching portfolios. Click here


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