Shalini Satkunanandan

Shalini Satkunanandan

Position Title
Assistant Professor of Political Science

571 Kerr Hall


Shalini Satkunanandan is a political theorist who works in the history of political thought and contemporary political theory, but also does work in legal and ethical theory. Her interdisciplinary interests were cultivated during her doctoral study in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program at the University of California, Berkeley, and her degrees in political science and law from the University of New South Wales, Australia. After completing her Ph.D., Satkunanandan spent three years at the University of Chicago, where she was a Harper Schmidt Fellow in the Social Sciences.

Research Interests 

Professor Satkunanandan’s current research follows three lines of inquiry. First, she investigates the relationship between ethics and politics, specifically the way a political actor’s preoccupation with morality can court irresponsibility. Second, she explores the passions and orientations that might counter technocratic, legalistic, and overly instrumental approaches to politics. In her third line of inquiry, she considers the role of religious or secularized faiths in late modern liberalism. Her research is interdisciplinary and ecumenical in that it crosses divides between political, legal and ethical theory; and between Anglo-Analytic and Continental approaches to political theory.

Selected Publications

  • Satkunanandan, S. (Forthcoming) Bureaucratic passions, Journal of Law, Culture, and the Humanities.
  • Satkunanandan, S. (2015) Extraordinary Responsibility: Politics Beyond the Moral Calculus, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Co-winner of the 2015 First Book Award, Foundations of Political Theory. Reviewed in The Times Literary Supplement, March 25 2016, p. 26.
  • Satkunanandan, S. (2014) Max Weber and the ethos of politics beyond calculation, American Political Science Review, Vol. 108 (1), 169-181.
  • Satkunanandan, S. (2013) Speaking faith to modern law, Journal of Law, Culture, and the Humanities, Vol. 9(1), 26-38.
  • Satkunanandan, S. (2011) The extraordinary categorical imperative, Political Theory, Vol. 39 (2), 234-260.

Teaching Experience

For her undergraduate lecture courses, Professor Satkunanandan usually teaches whole books or self-standing essays from the history of political thought. She works closely with her students to make sense of difficult texts. She challenges students to provide and defend their own overarching interpretation of a text and so (full disclosure) her lecture courses demand student participation. She teaches political theory texts as ways to understand our political situation, rather than as offering potential policy proposals, even when these texts present  “prescriptive” or “applicable” theory. She regularly teaches Ancient Political Thought, Late Modern Political Thought, and Nietzsche’s Critique of Modernity.

Professor Satkunanandan has taught graduate seminars on Nietzsche, on Plato, and also on the theme of the search for a “rational religion” in the history of western political thought (looking at thinkers including Immanuel Kant, John Rawls and Charles Taylor). In the near future she will be teaching a seminar on the thought of Max Weber. Her graduate courses are cross-listed with the UC Davis Program in Critical Theory (


  • Foundations of Political Theory (Organized Section of the American Political Science Association), First Book Award, co-recipient 2015.
  • Hellman Fellow, 2014 -2015.
  • Kadish Center for Law, Morality and Public Affairs Fellowship, U.C Berkeley, 2002-2003.
  • Fulbright Postgraduate Student Award, 1999.
  • University of New South Wales University Medal for Political Science, 1997.