Authority and Legitimation (2010-2012)

The Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks on a radio broadcast from the headquarters of Operation Push, 07/1973. U.S. National Archives.

During the academic years 2010/11 and 2011/12, the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies focused on problems of authority and legitimation. How have regimes of power been legitimated, sustained, and identified with realms of justice, the sacred, or the natural? How have cultures of consent and allegiance been created and maintained? Under what historical conditions have those cultures fractured or dissolved?

Topics Included:

  • Political culture
  • Religious, domestic, and social authority
  • The rise of nationalist and civic cultures
  • The symbolic construction of the authority of kings, chieftains, texts, and law
  • The mobilization of religious and social movements
  • The legitimation of empires and regimes of labor
  • The naturalization of everyday forms of domestic power
  • Challenges to authority in the form of delegitimation, resistance, withdrawal, or revolution

Davis Center Fellows


  • Monica Black, University of Tennessee
  • Sabrina Mervin, CNRS, Paris
  • Mary S. Morgan, London School of Economics
  • Mridu Rai, Trinity College, Dublin
  • Rachel St. John, New York University
  • Hugh Thomas, University of Miami
  • Katherine Verdery, CUNY Graduate Center
  • Eric D. Weitz, City College of New York


  • Paul Friedland, Independent Scholar
  • M. Cecelia Gaposchkin, Dartmouth University
  • Doris Garraway, Northwestern University
  • Polly Jones, University of Oxford
  • Christine Philliou, Columbia University
  • Jonathan Rieder, Barnard College
  • Hilda Sabato, Universidad de Buenos Aires
  • Joanna Tokarska-Bakir, University of Warsaw

Lawrence Stone Lectures

Kenneth Pomeranz, Why Is China So Big? (April 2010)
Ayesha Jalal, The Pity of Partition (April 2011)

Why is China so Big? Kenneth Pomeranz poster
The Pity of Partition event poster